Why Prince Charles read out the Queen's Speech in such an emotionless way

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·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·5-min read
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Watch: Prince Charles delivers Queen’s Speech in House of Lords

Prince Charles has set out the government's legislative agenda for the coming year in the State Opening of Parliament. Yahoo News UK reports on a historic Queen’s Speech, details the archaic traditions amid the pomp and pageantry, and explains why Charles delivered the speech in such a deadpan fashion.

The House of Lords chamber is full of people and chatter ahead of the Queen's Speech.

The occasion has extra significance this year – it is the first time it has taken place without Queen Elizabeth II in attendance for nearly six decades.

While the event marks the beginning of the parliamentary year, outlining the government's policy and legislative agenda for the coming session, it is largely ceremonial – an exercise in British pageantry.

Lords in red and gold gowns with fur, some wearing grey wigs, talk amongst themselves on the benches. The dress code is lounge suit or day dress for others.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales reads the Queen's speech in the House of Lords Chamber, during the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster on May 10, 2022 in London, England. The State Opening of Parliament formally marks the beginning of the new session of Parliament. It includes Queen's Speech, prepared for her to read from the throne, by her government outlining its plans for new laws being brought forward in the coming parliamentary year. This year the speech will be read by the Prince of Wales as HM The Queen will miss the event due to ongoing mobility issues. (Photo by Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Charles stood in for his mother Queen as she missed the state opening of parliament for the first time in nearly 60 years. (Getty Images)

Among the spectators are a representative from the Vatican, the Ukrainian ambassador and the prime minister's sister.

Inside the chamber people are packed together like sardines while outside in the streets of Westminster crowds grow to catch a glimpse of the procession from Buckingham Palace.

It is clear that – despite the Queen's absence – the pomp and ceremony is in no way diluted, with her son, Prince Charles, temporarily stepping into her shoes.

In each corner of the Lords are small televisions fixed to the walls, and the room falls quiet as they show the departure and arrival of the future king.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 10: Convoy including Camilla (R), Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles (L), Prince of Wales arrive at the Sovereign's Entrance ahead of the State Opening of Parliament at Houses of Parliament on May 10, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. Prince Charles is set to deliver Queen's Speech at state opening of Parliament as head of British monarchy will not attend event for first time since 1963 due to health reasons. (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cornwall and Prince of Wales arrive at the Sovereign's Entrance ahead of the state opening of parliament. (Getty Images)

As he enters the palace of Westminster and makes his way through the parliamentary estate to the House of Lords, the conversation resumes.

His cacophony of medals glint as Prince Charles enters the chamber, accompanied by his wife Camilla and his son Prince William. While his companions smile, the prince remains expressionless and unreadable.

The chamber is the most extravagant part of the palace, decorated in red and gold – adorned with scarlet leather benches and stained glass windows. It contrasts sharply with the more austere green benches of the Commons.

The room rises to its feet until he takes his seat on the golden throne and he tells observers to sit down. His wife sits to his left, his heir to the right.

Also on his right is the multi-billion pound imperial state crown which is made of gold, silver, and platinum - and covered in nearly 3,000 diamonds.

Various officials that are part of the ceremony flank the throne in garish and theatrical attire; one even spends their time holding out a sword and pointing it to the ceiling.

Before the speech can begin, the prime minister and leader of the opposition are summoned from the House of Commons by the Black Rod, a senior officer in the House of Lords, as the mace symbolising the monarch's power is collected.

The object is a symbol of royal authority and without it neither of the houses of parliament can pass laws.

Serjeant-at-Arms Ugbana Oyet (L) carries the mace from the Commons chamber across through the Central Lobby followed by Speaker of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle (C) and Lady usher of the Black Rod, Sarah Clarke (centre left) during the State Opening of Parliament, at the Houses of Parliament, in London, on May 10, 2022. - Queen Elizabeth II missed Tuesday's ceremonial opening of Britain's parliament, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tries to reinvigorate his faltering government by unveiling its plans for the coming year. (Photo by Yui Mok / POOL / AFP) (Photo by YUI MOK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Serjeant-at-arms Ugbana Oyet, left, carries the mace from the Commons chamber across through the Central Lobby followed by speaker of the Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, and lady usher of the Black Rod, Sarah Clarke during the state opening of parliament. (Getty Images)

Though they spend much of their working hours at loggerheads, the hostilities between Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer appear to have been suspended.

The pair are caught smirking at each other on the televisions as they cross the members lobby, garnering a few snickers in the Lords.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (centre right) and the leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer (centre left) walk through the Central Lobby at the Palace of Westminster ahead of the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords, London. Picture date: Tuesday May 10, 2022.
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer shared a joke as they walked through the Palace of Westminster. (PA Images)

When they arrive, they stand side-by-side at the back of the chamber with a crowd of MPs lucky enough to get in the room huddling around behind them.

The unlucky ones stand in the lobby, watching proceedings on televisions there.

Only when these protocols have been observed can Prince Charles begin to read the speech.

He does so in a deliberately deadpan way. His unwavering tone is required by protocol to avoid showing any approval or disapproval of what is being said, a reminder of the ceremonial nature of the role he plays.

Britain's Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince William proceed behind the Imperial State Crown through the Royal Gallery for the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London, Britain, May 10, 2022. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/Pool
Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and Prince William proceed behind the Imperial State Crown .(Reuters)

In recognition of the Queen's absence and his position as prince, Charles replaces the words "my government", written in the original copy of the speech, with "her majesty's government".

The Queen's heir ends the speech sombrely with: "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of almighty God may rest upon your counsels."

The room stands as the prince exits with his wife and heir, the ceremony is brief and over in less than half an hour.

Shortly after, sparring and conversation resume in the chamber as peers, MPs, journalists, and spectators begin to file out - reflecting on one of the more eccentric and archaic parts of British democracy.

And thus, another session of parliament commences.

Watch: Charles, Camilla and William leave House of Lords

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