In full regalia, King plumps for pomp
HE WAS the first King to have spoken at the State Opening of Parliament in 73 years.
But in a deeply moving moment of personal reflection, King Charles used his first King’s Speech to pay tribute to his ‘beloved mother’, who had carried out the most important of monarchical constitutional duties so impeccably over the years.
‘My Lords and members of the House of Commons,’ King Charles III said, as he sat on the sovereign’s throne. ‘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 more than 70 years.’
In paying tribute to his mother, the King was following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth herself, who spoke warmly of her father when she opened Parliament for the first time in November 1952. The last King’s Speech was in 1950 when King George VI spoke amid Britain’s involvement in the Korean War. At that time Charles was just a toddler and stood on a wall at Clarence House, blowing kisses to his mother and grandparents as he watched the carriages in procession.
The King was too ill to open Parliament the following year and died in February 1952, with his eldest daughter ascending to the throne.
In 1967, just before his 19th birthday, Charles took part in a State Opening procession for the first time, travelling in a carriage with his sister Princess Anne and the Queen.
And there was a starring role again for the Princess Royal yesterday, in attendance as her brother’s other ‘right-hand woman’.
We did see the King at parliament last May when His Majesty stepped in for his mother as she battled mobility problems ahead of her death in September. But as Prince of Wales he was not eligible to wear her Imperial State Crown. Yesterday it was placed on his head for the first time in Parliament as he addressed MPs and peers in the House of Lords.
In recent years, ailing Queen Elizabeth had opted for a more modest ceremonial outfit, a functional coat, day dress and hat rather than the weighty crown and robes.
But yesterday’s grand ceremonial event saw a return to the full pomp of the pre-Covid age, with the King not only donning the Imperial State Crown but his full Robes of State. Queen Camilla sported for the first time the glitter
ing George IV State Diadem, made in 1820 for the coronation of George IV and worn by Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth for their coronations.
Parsimoniously, she rewore her white Bruce Oldfield Coronation gown embroidered in gold with the names of her children, grandchildren – and even depictions of her two Battersea Dogs and Cats Home rescue dogs, Beth and Bluebell. It was the first time a Queen Consort had been present at a State Opening since 1950. Delivering his first speech as monarch, the King’s tone was impassive – a study in neutrality, no doubt hiding his personal dismay at the dismantling of the Government’s green agenda, a subject so close to this regal environmentalist’s heart.
It was the precise illustration of the relationship between the Monarchy and Government, speaking words written by his ministers of which – by constitutional necessity – he has absolutely no control.