Her Majesty The Queen officially opened a new session of Parliament this morning, but chose to take the lift instead of the stairs, another small sign her age is starting to affect her work.
Arriving at the Palace of Westminster in the Diamond Jubilee Carriage, the wet London weather did not dampen Her Majesty’s spirits, as she smiled and waved to the crowds as she wore the George VI diadem and Queen Victoria’s jubilee necklace.
She and Duke of Edinburgh headed to the Robing Room, upon arrival, but bypassed the 26 steps which connect the Sovereign’s Entrance and the Robing Room, by taking the lift, alleviating some of the stress of the lengthy ceremony.
The couple did not pass the Household Cavalry soldiers in full dress uniform, and appeared from another door as they entered. Her Majesty is now 90, and Prince Philip is 94, with his birthday next month.
Elizabeth was in the Robing Room to don Imperial State Crown and the Robes of State – the traditional attire for the ceremony – before she enters the House of Lords to read her speech. The crown alone weighs 1.06 kg (2.3 lb), and she often practices wearing it at home a few weeks before the big day.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the ‘modest adjustment’ to arrangements had been made for ‘The Queen’s comfort’. As you can see in the image above, the steps would be daunting to most pensioners.
This is another small admission of her 90 years being something of an obstacle. Back in 2014, Her Majesty avoided a climbing a small set of stairs for a second time at the Service of the Order of the Bath, which took place at Westminster Abbey; Prince Charles filled in for his mother, completing the small part of the ceremony for her.
The Opening of Parliament and deliverance of a speech by the Monarch dates back to at least 1536, under King Henry VIII. Much tradition and ceremony is involved in the event, including the taking hostage of an MP to ensure the Sovereign’s safety, and the summoning of MPs to the House of Lords by Black Rod; learn more about the history of it here.
2016 is the 63rd time The Queen has opened Parliament and delivered a speech, outlining the government’s plans for the coming year. Despite it being called ‘The Queen’s Speech’, Her Majesty has no say in what it contains – she is merely the median via which the information is shared.
This year’s speech included plans for a sugar tax on fizzy drinks, prison reform, and high-speed broadband for all homes.
You can watch the entire speech and most of the ceremony below: