07 November 2023

Return to pomp and ceremony as King steps into role long performed by his mother

07 November 2023

It was another milestone in the reign of Charles – his first King’s Speech.

And it began with a tribute to his “beloved mother”, the nation’s longest reigning sovereign.

“It is mindful of the legacy of service and devotion to this country set by my beloved mother, the late Queen, that I deliver this, the first King’s Speech in over 70 years,” the King said in a poignant start to the ceremony.

The late Queen had in more recent years been a solitary, diminutive figure in a practical day dress and hat in the House of Lords as she perched on her throne at the historic occasion, still carrying out her duties in her 90s.

But Charles, a week away from turning 75 and the first male monarch to open parliament since his grandfather George VI in 1950, returned to deliver a State Opening with all the pomp and ceremony of old.

The Imperial State Crown was given another wear after the coronation, appearing on a monarch’s head at a state opening for the first time in seven years, and Camilla made her debut in the most queenly of jewels, the dazzling Diamond Diadem, with both wearing lengthy crimson velvet Robes of State.

The Diamond Jubilee State Coach, the Glass Coach, state landaus and nearly 1,500 military taking part in the procession to Parliament completed the picture.

A lengthy speech faced the King and he was not in a hurry.

Charles took 11 and a half minutes to read his Government’s 1,223 words, the longest text for nearly 20 years, and he delivered it slowly and solemnly.

A few slip ups materialised. Charles said “long torm” instead of “long term” before correcting himself, and he stumbled over the word “who” as he read the line: “My ministers will put the security of communities and the nation ahead of the rights of those who endanger it.”

If the topics gave him cause for concern, he betrayed no sense of his own thoughts.

Green champion Charles, whose life has been spent campaigning with a passion to try to save the planet from environmental catastrophe, was required, in his role as a politically neutral head of state, to announce a bill on the licensing of new oil and gas fields.

He remained deadpan in tone throughout, glancing upwards occasionally, as he carried out his duty.

There was a rare sight of public hand-holding at an official occasion for Charles and Camilla, who emulated the late Queen and Duke of Edinburgh as they held their clasped hands aloft for support as they processed through the Lords.

As he rose after his speech, Charles touched his wife gently on the elbow to offer her his hand.

Royal robes, with heavy material and lengthy trains, can be difficult to deal with but the King adopted a method of flicking his red cloak to the side with his left hand to move it away from his feet.

Settling into this throne, he had adjusted the trousers of his Admiral of the Fleet uniform by pulling the material slightly.

Camilla had taken a cautious approach when she stepped from the state coach on arrival at the Sovereign’s Entrance

There was a little delay as she attempted to stand and navigate the tricky descent on the carriage’s fold down steps.

The Queen handed her matching clutch bag, to which was pinned a red Remembrance poppy, to one of the coachmen, as she reached for the hand rail before carefully moving down the three steps, and giving a smile of relief as she reached more stable ground.

The coachman lent a helping hand by giving back her clutch and then nobly crouching down to fully spread out the train of her gown.

Two tiny dog motifs adorned the Queen’s dress, perhaps a first for a regal state opening outfit, with Camilla re-wearing her coronation couture ensemble, which features golden embroidered images of her pet terriers Beth and Bluebell.

After the speech, there was relief.

Camilla gave a grin as they began their procession through the Lords, and Charles was all smiles as he met and shook hands with some of the key characters including Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt, and Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk.

It was all a familiar scene for Charles, who first attended the occasion as a teenager in 1967 and many years since, but this was his first truly at the helm, albeit reading the Government’s words.

And while riding in a carriage is a familiar experience for the royal family, Charles and Camilla showed that even kings and queens get it wrong sometimes.

As Camilla stepped into the state coach ready for their return journey home, she sat backwards, with Charles promptly joining her, before an official began urgently making circular motions with his hand to warn them.

The pair, who almost six months ago to the day were being crowned, switched places to the other side and set off facing forward to the Palace, another landmark royal duty under their belts.

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