Prince Charles replaces Queen Elizabeth in Parliament speech

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LONDON — Prince Charles, Britain’s longest-in-waiting king, had a moment in the spotlight on Tuesday, standing in for his mother at the official opening of parliament.

As he presided over the House of Lords for the first time, it was possible to glimpse what he might look like as king – one day.

But as Charles, 73, read the Queen’s Speech on behalf of his mother, it was also clear that day had yet to come.

Dressed in full regalia, Charles arrived in a Rolls-Royce and drove through the Sovereign’s Entrance. But he did not sit on the richly carved and gilded Sovereign’s Throne. Instead, he used the Consort’s Throne, which is similar but an inch shorter.

With Charles delivering the speech – actually written by the government, outlining its priorities for the year – the phrase ‘my government’ had to be replaced with ‘Her Majesty’s Government’, to be repeated over and over again.

Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas noted that the speech made little mention of the prince’s main issue.

“I wonder how Prince Charles felt reading a #QueensSpeech with a big zero in it about the environment,” she tweeted. “It is extremely disappointing to see that the Nature Bill has been dropped. Has the government forgotten that there is a biodiversity emergency? Too bad they couldn’t improvise a bit.

The presence of Charles and his eldest son, Prince William, in the House of Lords was a striking visual symbol of an ongoing power transition. Queen Elizabeth II, 96, has reduced her activities and gradually delegated more tasks to Charles and other members of the royal family.

But the queen does not seem to have any intention of stepping down voluntarily. The special powers she put in place to allow Charles to open Parliament was a one-time, not permanent arrangement.

In fact, the rise of video conferencing has allowed the Queen to stay engaged even as the pandemic and personal health issues have hampered in-person engagements.

“Pandemic or no pandemic, this is how the Queen as monarch is going to operate for years to come,” Majesty Magazine editor Joe Little said.

Buckingham Palace cited ‘mobility issues’ as the reason Elizabeth had to miss the official opening of Parliament for the first time in nearly six decades.

The Queen has already missed several major events in the Royal Diary, including services for Commonwealth Day and Remembrance Day. Last week, the Palace announced that she would also be skipping garden party season. And there are questions about how many of her own platinum jubilee celebrations she will be able to attend next month.

As Elizabeth II begins her ‘platinum jubilee’, a look back at the day she became queen in a tree house in Kenya

But remote work seems to suit the queen well.

Like many other Londoners, Elizabeth has escaped to the countryside during the pandemic, moving her home base from Buckingham Palace in London to Windsor Castle, 22 miles to the west. And she doesn’t seem inclined to return to city life.

From Windsor, she continues to meet virtually with ambassadors, admirals and various other dignitaries.

On Monday, she had a video call with the Governor General of Australia. On Wednesday, she is due to speak, again by video, with her Privy Council advisory group. She will also have her weekly chat with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the one on the phone.

“Compromises will be made and these Zoom calls are part of that,” Little said. “The Queen won’t want to disappear from sight like Queen Victoria did in her later years, and that’s how the Queen stays visible.”

A video clip from the summer of 2020 shows the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, speaking to her mother on a first Zoom call.

“Can you see everyone? You should have six people on your screen,” Anne said.

“Well, I can see four, anyway,” Elizabeth replied.

Even though Elizabeth is attending fewer events in person, the unscripted Zoom clips released by the palace make it seem like Britons are still seeing her a bit.

Speaking to a former covid-19 patient during a virtual hospital visit, the famously stoic queen admitted: “It leaves someone very tired and exhausted, doesn’t it?”

While the video chats may not offer new insight into the Queen’s personality, they can confirm people’s suspicions about her: that she’s direct, courteous and has a sense of perverse humor.

At a virtual event to mark UK Science Week in 2021, Elizabeth was asked by experts to talk about meeting Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel in space, in 1961. The laughter of others.

“He didn’t speak English,” she continued. “He was fascinating, and I guess being the first, it was particularly fascinating.” She joked that one of the most important things about space travel is to “come back” again.

When presenting the poet David Constantine with a gold medal for poetry, she asked him about the medal: “Do you put it in a closet?”

Little, of Majesty Magazine, noted that the queen has always had these kinds of exchanges. It’s just that if you weren’t also in a long queue to collect your own medal, you wouldn’t have heard them.

Given all the advances in technology, some have wondered why the Queen didn’t just record Tuesday’s speech from the comfort of her home in Windsor, avoiding all the pomp that comes with the official opening of Parliament.

But royal experts said that on this occasion, the show mattered extremely.

“It’s part of the mystique of the monarchy,” noted Victoria Howard, royal expert and founder of the Crown Chronicles site. She told the BBC: ‘Not having that would hurt the ceremony, and we’re very committed to the pump in the UK’

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