The state opening of parliament is the head of the British state’s major constitutional duty, and a day of pageantry is marked by the monarch’s speech in the upper chamber, the House of Lords.
In the address, the Queen is tasked with setting out the government’s plans for new laws in the next session of what is supposed to be a five-year parliament.
What is the Queen’s speech?
The Queen’s speech sets out the government’s priorities for the coming session of parliament, outlining proposed policies and legislation.
The address is delivered by the monarch during the state opening of parliament, a ceremonial event which marks the formal start of the parliamentary year.
It is important to note that the Queen does not write the speech. The Queen remains politically neutral and above party politics so the speech is written by government minsters.
The speech is read out by the Queen in the House of Lords, and typically lasts just a few minutes.
The event is perhaps best known around the world for its pomp and ceremony. The Queen travels to parliament in a state coach, escorted by mounted soldiers in ceremonial uniform. The imperial state crown and other regalia travel ahead in a carriage of their own.
The monarch puts on the robe of state before leading a procession to the Lords, where she sits on a throne and formally opens the new session of parliament by reading out the speech.
Why won’t the Queen be there?
Buckingham Palace said on Monday that the Queen’s son and heir, Prince Charles, will carry out the duty on behalf of the Queen. He will be accompanied by his eldest son, Prince William.
It is the latest event the Queen will not attend because of her health. She has been forced to cut back on engagements since being hospitalised for a night last October for an unspecified illness, and then being told by her doctors to rest.
Queen Elizabeth II, the world’s eldest and longest-reigning monarch, has continued to carry out many of her duties virtually. Her first public event since falling ill was in April, when she attended a memorial service to her late husband, Prince Philip, who died last year.
The monarch “reluctantly” pulled out of the occasion as she continues to experience “episodic mobility problems” with royal doctors advising her against attending, the Palace said.
A new letters patent authorised by the Queen was issued to cover the state opening, delegating to counsellors of state the royal function of opening a new session of parliament. In this instance, it enables Charles and William to jointly exercise that function.
Prince Charles already takes the place of the Queen at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, the annual event commemorating Britain’s war dead. He has also supported her at the state opening of parliament since the retirement of Prince Philip in 2017.
Has she missed the ceremony before?
It is the first time in nearly 60 years that the Queen will miss the state opening.
On those occasions the Lord Chancellor read the speech on her behalf.
What will be in the Queen’s Speech?
The government is expected to use the speech to bring forward changes to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements, alter laws the UK inherited from the European Union after Brexit, and replace the human rights act with a British bill of rights.
A range of new education policies, a levelling up and regeneration bill and plans to privatise Channel 4 are also expected to be included.
It is unclear whether more powers for a watchdog to regulate tech giants like Facebook and Google will be in the speech.