The Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge will open Parliament on the Queen’s behalf in a historic, unprecedented move which will see Charles read the Queen’s Speech.
The monarch, 96, reluctantly pulled out of the major ceremonial occasion – nearly 60 years after she last missed it – following advice from her royal doctors as she continues to experience “episodic mobility problems”.
As Charles, 73, takes on the head of state’s major constitutional duty for the first time, the move will be interpreted as a symbolic and significant shift in his responsibilities as a future monarch.
It will be William’s first state opening – and the royal function of opening a new parliament has been delegated to both Charles and William by the Queen.
The Duchess of Cornwall, a future Queen Consort, will also accompany Charles, but the Queen’s main throne will remain empty in the House of Lords.
The decision was taken on Monday, and the Queen’s mobility issues are said to be a continuation of the problems she has suffered since the autumn.
A new Letters Patent authorised by the Queen was issued to cover the State Opening delegating to Counsellors of State the royal function of opening a new session of Parliament.
In this instance, it enables Charles and William to jointly exercise that function. No other functions have been delegated by the Queen.
Buckingham Palace said in a statement: “The Queen continues to experience episodic mobility problems, and in consultation with her doctors has reluctantly decided that she will not attend the State Opening of Parliament tomorrow.
“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 Queen last missed a state opening of parliament in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and then Prince Edward, when her speech was read by the Lord Chancellor.
The Queen’s Speech is written by the Government and sets out its agenda for Parliament’s new session.