Queen Elizabeth has appeared in full regalia in the UK parliament for a speech, but was missing one key item for just the second time in history.
Queen Elizabeth II has opted not to wear an enormous crown encrusted with more than 2800 diamonds at the state opening of parliament, breaking her own tradition for just the second time in history.
The 93-year-old monarch travelled to the House of Lords accompanied by Prince Charles to read a speech which is written by the government on Monday to signal the start of a new parliamentary session. The official opening marks the start of a critical week of Brexit negotiations that could see Britain seal a deal with the EU or look set to crash out on Halloween.
The Queen wore an ivory dress with ermine-trimmed cloak and a lengthy train that was arranged by pageboys as she sat to deliver the speech in the ceremony that is heavy on royal pagaentry.
She opted to wear a diamond-covered diadem rather than the Imperial State Crown filled with more than 2868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emerelds and 269 pearls which was made for her father, King George VI’s coronation in 1937. It contains a number of priceless gems including the Second Star of Africa, the Black Prince’s Ruby, the Stuart Sapphire and St Edward’s Sapphire and sat on a cushion nearby.
It’s just the second time the monarch has not worn the crown for the parliamentary opening with the latest being in 2017, when she wore a blue hat that many speculated was a nod to the EU flag. It sat on a cushion nearby instead.
The Queen’s speech began by setting out the government agenda including a new deal with the EU “based on free trade” and “friendly co-operation”. It also laid out plans for 26 bills including seven on law and order, with new plans for spending on infrastructure, health, the environment and domestic education.
It was the 65th time the Queen has opened parliament, which she has done on every year of her reign except for 1959 and 1963 while pregnant.
Royal author Robert Hardman said the decision not to wear the full crown was a “sensible concession to the passage of time.”
“At 93 years old, having a two pound crown full of diamonds, emeralds and sapphires on your head can be quite a chore so that may be carried on a cushion and she will wear a diadem instead,” he told the BBC.
Last year, the Queen told the BBC the diamond-encrusted piece fitted her head well because it was the same shape as her father’s, but did admit the crown was heavy.
“You can’t look down to read the speech you have to look up, because if you did your neck would break,” she said.
The decision to hold a state opening of parliament has been surrounded by controversy in the UK given the timing over Brexit.
Critics of Prime Minister Boris Johnson described it as a political stunt as there is expected to be an election in the next few months which will trigger a new Queen’s speech for the incoming government.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “What we have got in effect is a party-political broadcast from the steps of the throne.”
On Tuesday, MPs will debate the new legislative agenda set out in the speech. On Thursday, leaders from 28 EU member states will meet in Brussels for a two-day summit seen as the final chance to gain an agreement on Brexit.
In the last week hopes of a deal have soared after Irish leader Leo Varadkar said there could be a “pathway” to an agreement. However EU leaders have told Britain more work needs to be done to get a deal across the line.
Threatening to leave with no deal is a key plank of Mr Johnson’s Brexit strategy, however that course of action is complicated by the fact that MPs have passed legislation that would compel the government to ask for an extension in the event of no deal.
On Saturday, the British parliament will sit for the first time in 39 years. If a deal has been struck, politicians may be asked to approve it. If there is no deal, it’s unclear what will happen but it has been suggested Mr Johnson could send a junior minister to Brussels to ask for an extension while ramping up pressure for a general election.