Covid rules strip back pomp and pageantry of Queen’s speech

There were no horses or carriages and the Queen sat alone on her throne at the state opening of parliament, with pomp and pageantry pared back because of Covid restrictions.

The Queen, on her first engagement outside Windsor Castle since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, wore day dress instead of the usual state robes.

In the House of Lords, she sat on a solitary ornate golden throne, where, previously there have been a pair of thrones, one each for the Queen and her consort.

Because Prince Charles, who escorted her, was to be seated separately because of the restrictions, it was felt it was not necessary to transport the consort’s throne to the Palace of Westminster for the occasion. Instead, it remained as is does when not in use, stored in the care of the lord great chamberlain. If, at the next state opening, things are back to normal and Charles is seated next to the Queen, it will be back in place.

In the royal gallery, usually filled with people, there were just 34 seated guests – 17 peers and 17 MPs, socially-distanced and wearing masks. Everyone present had to have proof of a negative Covid test.

The speech itself was contained in a cream booklet, and would normally be handed to the sovereign by the lord chancellor, Robert Buckland. This time, it had been placed on a table draped in an embroidered red and gold velvet covering next to the throne.

At eight minutes and 52 seconds, it was slightly shorter than the speech at the previous state opening in 2019, which ran for nine minutes and 14 seconds. It was 937 words long, making it the shortest speech since 2016, and less than the average length (1,095 words) of all the Queen’s speeches during the her 69-year reign.

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The longest was in November 1999, when she delivered a speech of 1,751 words, according to analysis by the PA news agency. The text, which took more than 15 minutes to read out, was the third Queen’s speech of Tony Blair’s Labour government.

The shortest came a decade later, in November 2009. Totalling 735 words, it took six-and-a-half minutes to deliver and was the third and final Queen’s speech of Gordon Brown’s Labour government.



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