One of the most magnificent occasions on the royal calendar, the State Opening of Parliament, took place in London on Wednesday – but with a slight departure from the normal procedure for Queen Elizabeth.
For the first time, the Queen, who celebrated her 90th birthday in April, took an elevator rather than climb the 26 steps of the royal staircase at the Sovereign s Entrance. Insiders says she is not as strong as she was and she has had trouble with her knees.
The Queen was accompanied by husband Prince Philip, 94, as they were taken up the elevator in the Victorian tower before the monarch headed to the Robing Room to put on the Royal Robes and Imperial State Crown.
“The Queen used the lift at Sovereign s Entrance rather than the stairs on arrival and departure. This modest adjustment to the arrangements was made for The Queen’s comfort,” a palace spokeswoman says.
Courtiers have been recently working to ease the Queen s workload. Official duties and engagements are briefer and often include more opportunities to sit down, for example.
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The Queen traveled in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach when she left Buckingham Palace on the rainy morning in London. The relatively new coach, which was built to commemorate her 60 years on the throne in 2012, is said to be a smoother ride than some of the other coaches in the Royal Mews. It’s supported by six hydraulic stabilizers (covered in gold leaf, of course!). It was pulled by six horses and followed by 116 men and horses – two divisions of the Blues and Royals and two divisions of the Life Guards.
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The regalia she wore was transported from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster shortly before 11 a.m. Carried in the Queen Alexandra State Coach was the Imperial State crown, the Cap of Maintenance (a symbol of the Soverign authority, which was a gift from the Pope to both Kings Henry VII and to his son King Henry VIII and has been worn en route to coronations) and the Sword of State that dates back to the 17th century.
Then, with the stunning (and coming in at a weighty 3lb!) Imperial State Crown on her head, the Queen spent about 15 minutes giving a speech that set out the policies the government (headed by her 12th prime minister, David Cameron) plans to implement over the next Parliamentary session.
The Queen has opened Parliament on all but two occasions throughout her record-breaking 63-year reign – once in 1959 and again in 1963 when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.