PRINCE Charles poignantly sat beside the Queen’s throne as she missed her first State Opening of Parliament in 59 years.
Her Majesty, 96, made the shock call to pull out at the last minute yesterday after speaking to her royal doctor.
Charles, 73, has been granted powers to deliver the televised speech on the Government’s legislative programme alongside his eldest son in a historic change to protocol.
The dramatic withdrawal has sparked fresh fears for the Queen’s health a month before her Platinum Jubilee party. It’s the first time since 1963 she has failed to attend the State Opening, and only the second time ever.
Palace sources have repeatedly reassured Brits that she is not ill, and is suffering “episodic mobility problems”.
However, there are now fears over whether she will appear at all at her four-day Platinum Jubilee from Thursday, June 2.
In her absence, Charles is taking on the head of state’s major constitutional duty.
It’s a move that will be seen by many as a significant shift in his responsibilities as king-in-waiting.
It’s also the first time William, who is expected to wear a morning suit, has attended the State Opening. He travelled separately, and arrived ahead of his father and stepmother, pausing to meet dignitaries.
Neither of the royals is sitting on the throne, which has instead been kept empty. Charles is also not wearing a crown, and took his seat in his naval uniform beside future queen consort Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
The Queen is understood to be watching the proceedings on television from Windsor Castle. She will have her weekly phone audience with the Prime Minister on Wednesday.
The Imperial State Crown, the Cap of Maintenance and the Sword of State were transported to the Palace of Westminster in three state limousines ahead of the service. Charles and William arrived in a state limousine.
It’s also a big day for Boris Johnson, who is trying to pull his embattled premiership back on track with a slew of promises to the nation.
The PM will use the ceremony to light a bonfire of Brexit red tape and drive forward his levelling up agenda after months of distraction.
He will deliver the speech at around 11.25am. It can be watched on UK Times’s website.
In all, the speech will include 38 Bills, including seven measures scrapping EU regulation – covering areas from data reform to gene-editing to financial services – as ministers seek to capitalise on the benefits of Brexit.
It will include a new crackdown on “guerrilla protests” with jail sentences of up to six months and unlimited fines for those who glue themselves to roads or “lock on” to public transport infrastructure.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the measures were necessary to prevent protest groups like Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion from bringing the country to “a grinding halt”.
In a sign of the Government’s determination to drive them through now, officials said the legislation could be introduced in Parliament as early as Wednesday.
CROWN AND OUT
Mr Johnson said all of the measures are part of a wider programme to get the country “back on track” after the pandemic while addressing the cost-of-living challenges.
In a tweet ahead of the Speech, the Prime Minister said the Government is “focused like a laser” on the issues that matter most to the public.
He wrote: “In these challenging times, this Government will provide the leadership needed to deliver for you.
“Your priorities are our priorities and we are focused like a laser on the issues that matter to you most.”
A Schools Bill for England will crack down on truancy, beef up the powers of education watchdogs and reform the funding system, while a Media Bill will enable the privatisation of Channel 4.
And a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is expected to give local leaders powers to rejuvenate high streets, by forcing landlords to rent out empty shop units.