Head of state Queen Elizabeth II will miss the official opening of the United Kingdom’s parliament on Tuesday for the first time in nearly 60 years, handing the task over to her heir Prince Charles in a clear sign of the impending transition of power.
The 96-year-old usually presides over the pompous event and reads the legislative program of her government from a gilded throne in the House of Lords.
But Buckingham Palace said late on Monday it would drop the annual offer of medical advice, making the decision “reluctantly” because she continues to have “occasional mobility issues”.
She’s the latest in a string of public appearances that has been called off due to health issues and old age, indicating that her record-breaking 70-year reign is coming to an end.
Charles will be accompanied in the high-profile government engagement by his eldest son, Prince William, who is second in line to the throne.
The Queen has rarely been seen in public since she spent an unexpected night in hospital last October, and has complained of difficulties standing and walking. She also contracted Covid-19 in February.
She only missed two jobs – in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and then Prince Edward.
Her decision has fueled fears that she may not be able to play a full role in next month’s public celebrations of her platinum jubilee.
In changes to the Westminster gala, Charles, 73, will not wear the Queen’s Imperial State Crown although he and Prince William will attend him by car, The Times reports.
Symbolically, the throne will remain in the upper chamber of Parliament where the Queen usually sits to deliver her speech, empty.
Royal expert Robert Hardman wrote in the Daily Mail that the Queen “remains largely responsible” but described the handover as a “historic moment”.
The Times wrote that for Charles – the longest-serving heir to the throne in British history – this was “the earliest time he has come to perform the duties he will one day carry out as king”.
It will be the first time William will attend the official opening ceremony, in another clear sign that the family is prepared for a future beyond Elizabeth and Charles.
And the Queen announced last week that she will not be attending the Royal Garden parties this summer, and she has only appeared once in public since October – at a March 29 memorial service for her late husband Prince Philip, who died last year at the age of 99.
‘Back on the right track’
The Queen’s absence has cast a shadow over the reveal of the new Parliament session in which Prime Minister Boris Johnson will try to revitalize his faltering government by unveiling its plans for next year.
Downing Street said, after suffering a series of scandals and the dire results of its Conservative rule in local elections last week, it promised to introduce 38 bills to get its agenda “back on track”.
They will focus on boosting economic growth and paving the way for more “high-paying, high-skilled jobs”, as well as tackling the rising cost of living.
The upcoming parliamentary session – the third session of the current government – is one of Johnson’s last chances to make good on his key political promises ahead of the next general election scheduled for May 2024.
Johnson won an 80-seat majority in December 2019, pledging to reap the benefits of Brexit and tackle decades of rising regional inequality.
Despite securing Britain’s exit from the European Union with a comprehensive trade deal, the coronavirus pandemic has upended the delivery of his domestic agenda.
The pandemic quickly drained his government and then veered in recent months due to various controversies, including the so-called “Partygate” scandal.
This led to Johnson becoming the first British prime minister to be found to have broken the law while in office, after police ruled that he and his staff had breached Covid-19 lockdown rules.
He now hopes his legislative platform will help draw a line under his recent troubles, not least the loss of nearly 500 council members in England, Wales and Scotland last week.
But it faces a massive challenge as the rising cost of living crisis begins to unfold, with bleak economic prospects.
(This story has not been edited by the NDTV crew and is automatically generated from a shared feed.)