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Queen skips UK Parliament opening

LONDON (AP) – Queen Elizabeth II did not attend the opening of Parliament yesterday 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 and that the 96-year-old had “reluctantly” decided not to attend. Prince Charles read her speech, while for the first time her grandson Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, had an official role in 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 Elizabeth has not opened Parliament. She previously missed the opening in 1959, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew, and 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 programme to a joint session attended by members of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in the House of Lords. PHOTO: AP

But taking part also involves navigating stairs and other challenges for someone with troubles moving.

Britain’s longest serving monarch, Elizabeth 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.

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 come from around the country and have served their communities, and it is considered a great 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.

Elizabeth, who also recently recovered from COVID-19, has spent much of the past two years at Windsor Castle 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.