Queen to carry out first major duty since Philip’s death as she attends State Opening of Parliament

State Opening timings 

  • 10.30am: The Queen is driven from Windsor Castle 
  • 11am: The Queen is driven from Buckingham Palace 
  • 11.20am: The Queen arrives at the Sovereign’s Entrance of the Houses of Parliament
  • 11.27am: The Royal Procession takes place from the Robing Room to the House of Lords chamber 
  • 11.30am: The Queen is seated on the Throne and instructs the Lord Great Chamberlain to signal to Black Rod to summon MPs from the Commons. MPs process to the Lords chamber, standing at the opposite end to the Throne to listen to the speech. 
  • The Queen reads out the speech, written by the government, from the Throne in the House of Lords, which takes about 10 minutes 
  • When the Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts and Parliament gets back to work. Members debate the content of the speech and agree an ‘Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech’
  • 2.30pm: Debate on the Queen’s Speech
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The Queen carried out her first major public ceremonial duty this morning since the death of her husband Prince Philip a month ago.

Her Majesty arrived at the Houses of Parliament for a scaled-back, socially-distanced State Opening where she was supported by her son Prince Charles and did not wear the two-pound Imperial State crown. 

Charles’s presence at her side this year, so soon after the death of Philip aged 99 on April 9, will be seen as a sign of things to come at future royal engagements.

The Queen wore what royal officials described as ‘day dress’ – a coat and hat – instead of her ceremonial robes or crown and travelled by car from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, rather than by coach. 

She was accompanied by a lady-in-waiting and had earlier been driven from Windsor Castle.

The monarch’s Imperial State Crown was, as in recent years, carried separately and placed on a table in the House of Lords before she gave her keynote speech, outlining the government’s plans for the year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use the speech to heap pressure on stricken Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer with a legislative agenda aiming to ‘level up’ jobs and investment in former Labour heartlands. 

The PM will try to cement his new ‘Blue Wall’ vowing people will no longer have to move to London for decent work, and boosting education opportunities for those who have not been to university. 

The centrepiece of the ceremony, the Crown Jewels which weigh two pounds and eight ounces, are now too heavy for the 95-year-old Queen to wear at what was a pared-down ‘Covid-appropriate’ event. 

Elizabeth II, the nation’s longest reigning sovereign, last wore the crown – which is made of more than 3,000 gemstones and weighs two pounds and 13 ounces – for the 2016 state opening. 

Queen Elizabeth II arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London this morning

Queen Elizabeth II arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London this morning

Queen Elizabeth II arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London this morning

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrive for the State Opening of Parliament this morning

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrive for the State Opening of Parliament this morning

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrive for the State Opening of Parliament this morning

Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace ahead of the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords today

Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace ahead of the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords today

Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace ahead of the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords today

Her Majesty is accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the State Opening this morning

Her Majesty is accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the State Opening this morning

Her Majesty is accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the State Opening this morning

Prince Charles arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster this morning

Prince Charles arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster this morning

Prince Charles arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster this morning

The Imperial State Crown is pictured as it leaves Buckingham Palace ahead of the State Opening of Parliament today

The Imperial State Crown is pictured as it leaves Buckingham Palace ahead of the State Opening of Parliament today

The Imperial State Crown is pictured as it leaves Buckingham Palace ahead of the State Opening of Parliament today

Royal cars arriving for the State Opening of Parliament in Westminster this morning with a police escort

Royal cars arriving for the State Opening of Parliament in Westminster this morning with a police escort

Royal cars arriving for the State Opening of Parliament in Westminster this morning with a police escort








The Imperial State Crown arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London this morning

The Imperial State Crown arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London this morning

The Imperial State Crown arrives for the State Opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London this morning

Royal cars are seen leaving Buckingham Palace for the State Opening Of Parliament in London this morning

Royal cars are seen leaving Buckingham Palace for the State Opening Of Parliament in London this morning

Royal cars are seen leaving Buckingham Palace for the State Opening Of Parliament in London this morning








The Imperial State Crown is taken from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament today

The Imperial State Crown is taken from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament today

The Imperial State Crown is taken from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords for the State Opening of Parliament today

The Queen's Imperial State Crown is, as in recent years, being carried separately and placed on a table in the House of Lords

The Queen's Imperial State Crown is, as in recent years, being carried separately and placed on a table in the House of Lords

The Queen’s Imperial State Crown is, as in recent years, being carried separately and placed on a table in the House of Lords

The Queen travels down The Mall from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament for the State Opening today

The Queen travels down The Mall from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament for the State Opening today

The Queen travels down The Mall from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament for the State Opening today

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament to start the ceremonial search today

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament to start the ceremonial search today

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament to start the ceremonial search today

Members of the House of Lords wearing their robes and masks talk with each other as they wait to enter their chamber today

Members of the House of Lords wearing their robes and masks talk with each other as they wait to enter their chamber today

Members of the House of Lords wearing their robes and masks talk with each other as they wait to enter their chamber today

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery to start the ceremonial search today which is the opening event

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery to start the ceremonial search today which is the opening event

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery to start the ceremonial search today which is the opening event

Masked Yeoman warders take up their positions in front of the statue of Queen Victoria at the Houses of Parliament today

Masked Yeoman warders take up their positions in front of the statue of Queen Victoria at the Houses of Parliament today

Masked Yeoman warders take up their positions in front of the statue of Queen Victoria at the Houses of Parliament today

Yeoman warders march into the Prince's Chamber during the reduced ceremonial search at Parliament today

Yeoman warders march into the Prince's Chamber during the reduced ceremonial search at Parliament today

Yeoman warders march into the Prince’s Chamber during the reduced ceremonial search at Parliament today

Masked Yeoman warders take up their positions in front of the statue to Queen Victoria outside the House of Lords today

Masked Yeoman warders take up their positions in front of the statue to Queen Victoria outside the House of Lords today

Masked Yeoman warders take up their positions in front of the statue to Queen Victoria outside the House of Lords today

Yeoman warders arrive in the Prince's Chamber during the reduced ceremonial search at Parliament today

Yeoman warders arrive in the Prince's Chamber during the reduced ceremonial search at Parliament today

Yeoman warders arrive in the Prince’s Chamber during the reduced ceremonial search at Parliament today

A parliamentary official walks past a cleaner in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament today

A parliamentary official walks past a cleaner in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament today

A parliamentary official walks past a cleaner in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament today

The Queen leaves Windsor Castle on her way to Buckingham Palace in London before the State Opening Of Parliament today

The Queen leaves Windsor Castle on her way to Buckingham Palace in London before the State Opening Of Parliament today

The Queen leaves Windsor Castle on her way to Buckingham Palace in London before the State Opening Of Parliament today

How will this year’s State Opening be different? 

The pomp and ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament has been reduced this year to prevent any spread of coronavirus. Here is how it will look different:

  • The Queen will not wear her ceremonial robes or crown and instead wear ‘day dress’ – a coat and hat
  • The Queen will travel by car from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, rather than by coach
  • MPs and members of the House of Lords will have to wear masks throughout unless they are exempt
  • Everyone will have to take a Covid test beforehand and only be allowed to attend with a negative result
  • Significantly fewer politicians and peers and no diplomatic or non-parliamentary guests invited
  • There will be just 108 people attending, including the Queen, rather than up to 600 as is the norm 
  • The Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland will not hand the speech directly to the Queen as is usually the custom, but place it on a table instead
  • No military street liners or lining of the Sovereign’s staircase and no military band nor Guard of Honour 
  • No heralds in attendance, only two Yeomen and Gentlemen at Arms, just one bishop representing the group of 26, and only the Lord Chief Justice and the Head of the Supreme Court representing the Judges
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The Queen has formally opened each new session of Parliament on all but two occasions during her 69-year reign – in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

The decision to operate what is known as a ‘reduced ceremonial State Opening’ is seen as a sensible option given the pandemic and restrictions still being in place.  

Officials are also keen not to encourage crowds – and the scaled-back ceremony is because of the Covid-19 crisis, rather than the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Her Majesty will be accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. Charles has previously accompanied the Queen, as has Camilla.  

Another amendment for the ceremony today is that the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland will not hand the speech directly to the Queen as is usually the custom, but place it on a table instead. 

Other changes include no military street liners or lining of the Sovereign’s staircase and no military band nor Guard of Honour outside the Palace of Westminster or as part of the procession from Buckingham Palace.

There will be no heralds in attendance, only two Yeomen and Gentlemen at Arms, just one bishop representing the group of 26, and only the Lord Chief Justice and the Head of the Supreme Court representing the Judges.

But one ancient tradition which will still take place is the one involving the House of Lords official, Black Rod. 

Sarah Clarke, Lady Usher of the Black Rod, will see the doors to the Commons shut in her face as she arrives to summon MPs.

She has to strike the door three times before it is opened. It is a practice that dates back to the Civil War and is said to symbolise the Commons’ independence from the monarchy.

Members of the Royal Family are expected to rally round the elderly monarch even more in the coming months and years following the loss of her husband. 

Prime Minster Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster today

Prime Minster Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster today

Prime Minster Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster today

This year the State Opening of Parliament has been reduced in numbers on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

This year the State Opening of Parliament has been reduced in numbers on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

This year the State Opening of Parliament has been reduced in numbers on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

Security officers keeps watch before the State Opening of Parliament by the Queen at the Palace of Westminster today

Security officers keeps watch before the State Opening of Parliament by the Queen at the Palace of Westminster today

Security officers keeps watch before the State Opening of Parliament by the Queen at the Palace of Westminster today

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament to start the ceremonial search today

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament to start the ceremonial search today

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament to start the ceremonial search today

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster today

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster today

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster today

Scenes in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

Scenes in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

Scenes in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

The State Opening of Parliament takes place at the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London today

The State Opening of Parliament takes place at the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London today

The State Opening of Parliament takes place at the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London today

Police officers stand guard before the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster this morning

Police officers stand guard before the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster this morning

Police officers stand guard before the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster this morning

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

People in the Central Lobby before the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords this morning

Police officers stand guard along The Mall before the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster today

Police officers stand guard along The Mall before the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster today

Police officers stand guard along The Mall before the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster today

2019: Queen Elizabeth II sits next to Prince Charles at the State Opening of the Houses of Parliament in October 2019

2019: Queen Elizabeth II sits next to Prince Charles at the State Opening of the Houses of Parliament in October 2019

2019: Queen Elizabeth II sits next to Prince Charles at the State Opening of the Houses of Parliament in October 2019

2019: The Queen and the Prince of Wales during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords in October 2019

2019: The Queen and the Prince of Wales during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords in October 2019

2019: The Queen and the Prince of Wales during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords in October 2019

2019: Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage along The Mall ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in October 2019

2019: Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage along The Mall ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in October 2019

2019: Queen Elizabeth II travels by carriage along The Mall ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in October 2019

Philip spent decades accompanying the Queen to the occasion, sitting on an golden throne at his wife's side (above, in 2016)

Philip spent decades accompanying the Queen to the occasion, sitting on an golden throne at his wife's side (above, in 2016)

Philip spent decades accompanying the Queen to the occasion, sitting on an golden throne at his wife’s side (above, in 2016)

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the State Opening of Parliament ceremony in October 1967

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the State Opening of Parliament ceremony in October 1967

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the State Opening of Parliament ceremony in October 1967

The Queen will not wear the heavy Imperial State Crown which she last wore at the 2016 opening. This will be carried on a cushion and placed on a table as it was in 2019 (pictured)

The Queen will not wear the heavy Imperial State Crown which she last wore at the 2016 opening. This will be carried on a cushion and placed on a table as it was in 2019 (pictured)

The Queen will not wear the heavy Imperial State Crown which she last wore at the 2016 opening. This will be carried on a cushion and placed on a table as it was in 2019 (pictured)

Charles has been at his mother’s side for the last three state openings – in December 2019, October 2019 and in June 2017.

A search for gunpowder and an MP held ‘hostage’: State Opening traditions that date back centuries 

The State Opening of Parliament is usually the most colourful event of the parliamentary year and is steeped in tradition and customs dating back to the 16th century.

The current ceremony, which marks the formal start of the parliamentary year, dates from the opening of the rebuilt Palace of Westminster in 1852 after the fire of 1834. The Queen’s Speech presents the Government’s agenda, outlining proposed policies and legislation.

It is also the only regular meeting involving the three constituent parts of Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Before Her Majesty arrives, a ceremonial search is carried out for gunpowder, which dates back to the reign of James I and Guy Fawkes. 

An MP is also ceremonially held hostage in Buckingham Palace while the Queen attends the Opening, to ensure her safe return, in a tradition dating back to Charles I. 

The State Opening, which happens on the first day of a new parliamentary session or shortly after a general election, begins with the Queen’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster.

The Queen is normally escorted by the Household Cavalry before arriving at the Sovereign’s Entrance and proceeding to the Robing Room. She then leads the Royal Procession through the Royal Gallery to the chamber of the House of Lords.

An ancient tradition which will still take place is the one involving the House of Lords official, Black Rod.

Sarah Clarke, Lady Usher of the Black Rod, will see the doors to the Commons shut in her face as she arrives to summon MPs. She has to strike the door three times before it is opened. 

It is a practice that dates back to the Civil War and is said to symbolise the Commons’ independence from the monarchy.

Members of the House of Commons then follow Black Rod and the Commons Speaker to the Lords chamber, standing at the opposite end to the Throne, known as the Bar of the House, to listen to the speech.

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He stepped in for his father Philip in 2017 after the duke fell ill with an infection, two months before he retired from public duties. 

It is the first time the Queen has conducted an engagement outside of Windsor Castle since her husband died – and only the second time she has been at Buckingham Palace since she retreated to Windsor in March last year during the first lockdown.

She briefly visited when she travelled to London to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey last November.

Philip, the nation’s longest reigning consort, spent decades accompanying the monarch to the grand occasion at Parliament, sitting on an ornate golden throne at his wife’s side. 

The Queen has been continuing with her work as sovereign at Windsor Castle as she mourns the loss of her beloved husband of 73 years.

The Queen marks the beginning of the parliamentary session by delivering the Queen’s Speech, which sets out the Government’s legislative plans.

The State Opening of Parliament is usually the most colourful event of the parliamentary year and is steeped in tradition and customs dating back centuries.

But because of the pandemic, the pomp and ceremony has been reduced in 2021 to prevent any spread of coronavirus.

MPs and members of the House of Lords will have to wear masks throughout unless they are exempt, and everyone present will have to take a Covid test beforehand and only be allowed to attend if they have a negative result.

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

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

Discussions took place with the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England to ensure the event was Covid-secure, with limited attendance, social distancing, masks, good hand hygiene and Covid testing incorporated into the proceedings. 

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