Through the mouth of Elizabeth II, prime minister vows humility
Queen’s Speech gives legislative outline
She reads it, but she doesn’t write it. The Queen’s Speech, that is.
Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth II outlined the government’s legislative program after Prime Minister Theresa May slimmed down her plans and promised “humility” in negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union following a disastrous election that cost the ruling Conservative Party its majority.
The speech the queen reads to lawmakers is written by the prime minister and her staff.
The 91-year-old monarch carried on with her royal duties at the ceremonial opening of the new Parliament despite the announcement that her husband, Prince Philip, had been hospitalized as a precaution for treatment of an infection.
The nine-minute speech, shorter than usual, reflected May’s weakened position — a loss of stature that has emboldened those within her own party who want a “softer” Brexit from the EU. Almost two weeks after the vote, May’s ruling Conservative government is in talks with the Democratic Unionist party of Northern Ireland to form a ruling coalition.
Signaling the importance of Brexit negotiations with the EU, set to continue until the spring of 2019, the speech set out the government’s program for two years, rather than one.
The prime minister, who campaigned with the slogan “Brexit means Brexit,” softened her tone in comments released before the speech. “First, we need to get Brexit right,” she said. “That means getting a deal which delivers the result of last year’s referendum and does so in a way that commands maximum public support.”
Even before news of Prince Philip’s illness, the government had announced that the speech would be delivered with less pageantry than normal. The queen arrived at Parliament in a car, rather than a horse-drawn carriage and delivered the speech in everyday dress, instead of the traditional royal robes.
She did not wear her crown while addressing lawmakers from a gilded throne in the House of Lords, although the crown was sitting next to her on a table. According to the BBC, the crown arrived in a separate car.
The official reason for the scaled-back ceremony is that there wasn’t enough time to rehearse for the procession because of another pomp-filled British event, Trooping the Colour, the annual celebration of the queen’s birthday, which took place last weekend.
Elizabeth II reads the Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster.