Queen’s speech: ‘Dressed down’ monarch carries out first major engagement since death of husband Philip

The Queen would have "still felt the steadiness" of Prince Phillip at her side during the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday, a royal expert has said.

It was her first major engagement on the national stage since the death of her husband Prince Philip last month but Alastair Bruce, Sky News’ royal and national events commentator, said that after decades of the duke being at her side she would still have felt his "encouragement".

This year’s Queen Speech – part of the State Opening of Parliament ceremony in which the government outlines its priorities for the months ahead – was a more pared down event, due to pandemic precautions.

Follow the Queen’s speech analysis

Normally, the ceremony begins with a procession, in which the Queen travels from Buckingham Palace to Westminster – usually by carriage.

It is one of the most colourful events of the parliamentary year and is steeped in tradition and customs dating back centuries.

Today, however, the Queen arrived in a Bentley limousine, fewer people attended and all had to show a negative COVID test and wear a face covering.

She also wore a lilac-grey "day dress," with matching hat and coat instead of the usual ceremonial robes to be "COVID appropriate".

But despite the restrictions, Mr Bruce said it was a "key moment" for the Queen as head of state and "nothing would’ve stopped her from doing it".

He said ahead of the speech: "The Duke of Edinburgh will not be at her side but she will have her son (Prince Charles) and daughter-in-law (Camilla) with her.

"It is a much-reduced event but it’s delivering that purposeful and punctuation-like constitutional moment before the start of the new session.

"Nothing would ‘ve stopped her from doing it.

"The Queen has seen people all over the country doing their duties – whatever they may be – and people going through a lot in losing people to COVID.

"For the Queen, to lose her husband was very sad, but he had lived a full life and had been constantly at her side so I think she will feel the steadiness of his encouragement today."

He said, her Majesty would have been given a copy of the speech last night and spent the evening rehearsing it.

The actual speech is presented to her on the day by the Lord Chancellor, who kneels in front of her at the throne steps.

She then reads it out once the MPs from the House of Commons have arrived in the House of Lords.

Before she arrived, two cars, one carrying the Imperial State Crown, and one the sword of state and the ‘cap maintenance’ arrived.

The cap is a kind of hat worn within a crown, made of velvet with an ermine edge and a golden tassel. It is a symbol of royal authority.

Lieutenant colonel Mike Vernon, controller of the Lord Chamberlain’s office and Mark Appleby who is the crown jeweller accompanied them.

Only three people are allowed to touch the crown – the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the crown jeweller.

Prince Philip, the nation’s longest reigning consort who died aged 99 on 9 April, spent decades accompanying the monarch to the grand occasion, sitting on an ornate golden throne at his wife’s side.

Significantly fewer politicians and peers were there on Tuesday compared with previous years and no diplomatic or non-parliamentary guests were invited, with just 108 people attending, including the Queen, rather than up to 600 as is the norm.

There were 74 people in the chamber, including the monarch, Charles, Camilla, the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer, representatives from the House of Lords and House of Commons and those involved in the ceremonial procession.

There were also be 17 members of the Lords and 17 MPs in the Royal Gallery.

The speech clocked in at eight minutes and 52 seconds – slightly shorter than the speech at the previous State Opening of Parliament in December 2019, which ran for nine minutes and 14 seconds.

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