Elizabeth II has only missed the State Opening of Parliament twice in her 70-year reign, both times because she was pregnant.
What is clear is that the episodes are becoming more frequent and disruptive. The Queen always cancels engagements at the last minute, and that now also applies to the appointments that were previously in her agenda.
Opening the new parliamentary seat is a fundamental constitutional responsibility of the British monarch. It cannot do without her, just like the signing of bills and the appointment of new prime ministers. While her role is purely ceremonial and she only acts on the advice of ministers, Britain’s democracy would take over overnight without her.
Fortunately, there are precautions. The Queen has issued a legal notice known as Letters Patent to give Prince Charles and Prince William the power to open parliament on her behalf. It’s lucky they were available, as the other two stand-in options under the current system are Prince Andrew and Prince Harry, who have either given up or been stripped of their royal responsibilities.
On Friday, the Queen was able to attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show – one of her favorite events – and was pictured smiling as she arrived. Nevertheless, while no one doubts Elizabeth’s devotion to duty and service, the reality is that she can only make a firm commitment to work from home at this point.
That inevitably raises the role and profile of Prince Charles, alongside Prince William. Both will now have to prioritize the Queen’s diary over their own.
There is no suggestion that the queen will abdicate and hand over the crown definitively to Charles, nor that he will become regent, meaning he will become an untitled monarch. But both princes are activated as councilors of state, where the queen delegates her sovereign power for specific purposes. They should now be even more available for those tasks.
In addition to the opening of Parliament, Charles has already had a busy week full of engagements. He hosted a Buckingham Palace garden party and popped up at Oxford University, London’s Canada House and a South London sneaker store in the three days since his visit to Westminster – indicating his growing workload.
But he’s the longest-serving heir to the throne in British history, and there’s no question that he has the experience to take on a full royal agenda.
The more we see him do that, the better we’ll know him in that role. It’s the mechanism for preparing for the next monarch, and lessens the culture shock some will feel when it happens. Charles may not be as loved by the public as his mother right now, but we won’t really know how accepted he will be as a monarch until he becomes king.
Royal sources suggest we won’t know for sure until much closer to time, and probably not until the day of each event. In the meantime, the organizers are keeping their fingers crossed and trying to arrange her scheduled public appearances so that she has to exert as little effort as possible.
People will understand if she can only be there in spirit – but it will add a touch of sadness to the events if the Queen can’t enjoy it in person.
WHAT MORE HAPPENS?
Garden parties return in the rain.
Buckingham Palace hosted its first garden party in three years on Wednesday, and a long-standing British tradition returned with another: bad weather. But the rain didn’t seem to deter the guests, thousands of whom are invited to the palace every year to celebrate their work in their community. The Queen will not be attending this year due to her mobility issues, so Prince Charles and Camilla took her place and mingled with those in attendance. The pandemic has caused the celebrations to be canceled for the past two years, but they remain an important part of the royal calendar.
Meghan pleads for more childcare allowance.
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has called on companies to expand their childcare facilities for working mothers. The Duchess is working with the Marshall Plan for Moms, a group that lobbies American companies to improve their employee benefits. Meghan said in a press release that the pandemic has given working mothers “more caring responsibilities, rising prices and economic uncertainty.” The mother of two added: “It takes a village to raise a child… creating a stronger workforce starts with meeting the needs of families.”
William opens monument to Manchester bombings.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge traveled to Manchester in northern England to open a memorial to the victims of a 2017 terror attack that shook the country. A total of 22 people were killed when a bomb exploded during an Ariana Grande concert in the city’s main music center. William said that as someone living with their own grief, it is important to remember the victims. “This was an attack on a music night. And it happened in a city that has given the world so many songs to sing,” he said.
DID YOU KNOW?
A new dessert for the Queen’s Jubilee.
An amateur baker has won a televised competition to create a brand new dessert in honor of the Queen’s jubilee.
Jemma Melvin, a 31-year-old copywriter from England, invented a lemon Swiss roll and amaretti trifle — a concoction that won the BBC Jubilee Pudding competition.
People will now be encouraged to recreate the dessert during a day of street parties and community events on June 5.
“The thought of people re-making my pudding, especially around the anniversary, is just such a joy,” Melvin said during the program on Thursday.
The competition followed the tradition of inventing new dishes for important royal milestones. Jubilee chicken was invented in 1935 for George V, and an updated version was made for the Queen in 2002. The Victoria sponge is named after Queen Victoria, who supposedly enjoyed a slice of cake with her tea every afternoon.
But perhaps the most famous success story is the coronation chicken, a combination of cold chicken pieces, curry powder and mayonnaise, cooked for the new queen in 1953 and still commonplace in Britain.
Cancer activist Deborah James awarded damehood.
The Queen has approved a damehood for British podcaster Deborah James, whose experience living with colon cancer captured the imagination of listeners across the country.
James, 40, has used her podcast “You, Me and the Big C” to raise awareness about the realities of living with cancer. She revealed on Monday that she has switched to palliative care and has since raised £4 million ($4.9 million) for Cancer Research UK.
“Every once in a while someone captures the heart of the nation with their zest for life and tenacious desire to give back to society. @bowelbabe is one of those special people,” William and Kate wrote on Twitter this week, using James’ online handle.
“Her tireless efforts to raise awareness of colon cancer and end the stigma of treatment are inspiring,” the couple said, adding that they have donated to James’ appeal.
On Thursday, Downing Street confirmed that she will be given a damehood. These are usually awarded at the end of the year, but in special circumstances they are announced early – such as with the knighthood given to Covid-19 fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore, who died last year aged 100.
FROM THE ROYAL Vault
A collection of the Queen’s jewelery will be on display at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse this summer to mark the platinum anniversary.
Each exhibit features a memorable event from the Queen’s 70-year reign. A particularly stunning piece to make the cut is the diamond diadem, first created for George IV’s coronation in 1821.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, the diadem was handed over to the Queen, who wore it during her own coronation.
Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms, where the diadem will be on display, will also show off the official portraits of the Queen, by Dorothy Wilding, and the other pieces worn during their sessions.
A discerning audience will recognize the diadem from the Wilding portrait that inspired the postage stamps used between 1953 and 1971.
Among the other pieces of jewelry on display are the Queen’s Brooches that represent the emblems of Commonwealth countries worn on state visits, such as the Australian Wattle Brooch.
The outfits worn by the Queen on previous anniversaries are also on display in the royal residences during the exhibition, which opens in July.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Prince William watches the shuttlecock as he tries badminton during a visit to Birmingham last Friday.
Hafsa Khalil of DailyExpertNews contributed to this article.
This story has been corrected to reflect that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, not Sussex, visited Manchester this week.