Queen will miss opening of British Parliament due to ‘mobility problems’

Queen Elizabeth will not attend the opening of Britain’s Parliament on Tuesday for the first time in nearly 60 years, as she struggles with difficulties in getting around. 

Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Monday that the decision was made in consultation with her doctors as she “continues to experience episodic mobility problems” and that she had “reluctantly” decided not to attend.

Prince Charles will read her speech, while for the first time her grandson Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, will have an official role at the event.

“At Her Majesty’s request, and with the agreement of the relevant authorities, the Prince of Wales will read the Queen’s Speech on Her Majesty’s behalf, with the Duke of Cambridge also in attendance,” the palace said in a statement.

It will mark only the third time during her reign that Queen Elizabeth, 96, has not opened Parliament. She previously missed the opening in 1959, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew, and in 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Edward.

The state opening of Parliament is a centuries-old ceremony that marks the start of the legislative year. The pageantry traditionally begins with a coach ride to the Houses of Parliament, which is followed by the monarch reading the Queen’s Speech setting out the government’s legislative program to a joint session attended by members of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

But taking part also involves navigating stairs and other challenges for someone who has trouble moving. 

Skipping the summer garden party season

Britain’s longest-serving monarch, the Queen last appeared in public during a service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the life of Prince Philip, her spouse of more than 70 years, who died last year.

The Queen, in residence at Windsor Castle, appears on a screen via videolink before Salah Mrehil, the ambassador from Libya, and his wife Hanaa Gbasa at Buckingham Palace in London on April 5. Elizabeth has kept working throughout the pandemic, although most of her tasks have been carried out virtually. (Yui Mok/Pool Photo/The Associated Press)

Last week, the palace also announced that her difficulties would also prevent her from taking part in the summer garden party season. These events feature thousands of guests who sip tea on the lawn of Buckingham Palace or the Palace at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

The guests are people from across the country who have served their communities, and it is considered a coup to catch an up-close glimpse of the sovereign. The Queen is known to wear bright colours to make sure she can be seen.

The parties, which involve hours of standing around, walking and mingling, were set to return for the first time in three years starting next week.

The Queen has spent much of the past two years at Windsor Castle, west of London, where she took refuge during the pandemic. She has kept working throughout this period, although most of her tasks have been carried out virtually, including meetings with ambassadors, health workers and schoolchildren.

She tested positive for COVID-19 in February and has said she was left very tired. She also spent a night in hospital in October for an unspecified ailment.

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