May 10, 2022: Head of state Queen Elizabeth II will miss Tuesday’s ceremonial opening of the UK parliament for the first time in nearly 60 years, handing the duty to her heir Prince Charles in a clear sign of the looming transition of power.
The 96-year-old monarch usually presides over the pomp-filled event and reads out her government’s legislative programme from a gilded throne in the House of Lords.
But Buckingham Palace said late Monday she would skip the annual showpiece on medical advice, making the decision “reluctantly” as she continues to experience “episodic mobility problems”.
It is the latest in a string of cancelled public appearances caused by health problems and old age indicating her record-breaking 70-year reign is drawing to a close.
Charles will be accompanied at the high-profile state engagement by his eldest son, Prince William, who is second-in-line to the throne.
The queen has rarely been seen in public since spending an unscheduled night in hospital last October, and has complained of difficulties standing and walking. She also contracted Covid-19 in February.
She has missed only two state openings, in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and then Prince Edward.
Her decision heightened fears that she may not be able to play a full part in public celebrations next month celebrating her Platinum Jubilee.
Royal expert Robert Hardman wrote in the Daily Mail that the queen “remains very much in charge” but called the handover a “historic moment”.
It will be William’s first time attending the state opening, in another clear sign of the family preparing for a future beyond Elizabeth and Charles.
The queen announced last week she will not attend this summer’s royal garden parties, and has only appeared once in public since October — at the March 29 memorial service for her late husband Prince Philip, who died last year aged 99.
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