Charles III today used the king’s first speech in more than seventy years – his first as British monarch – to pay a moving tribute to his ‘beloved mother’, Queen Elizabeth II, at the State Opening of Parliament
In his address to MPs and peers in the House of Lords this morning, he spoke of Her Majesty’s ‘legacy of service and dedication’, with his wife Queen Camilla beside him.
It was a historic and emotional moment for the king, who replaced his mother in May last year when she was struggling with mobility problems. She passed away last September.
In paying tribute to his mother, the king, who wore the imperial state crown, followed in the footsteps of the queen herself, who spoke warmly of her father when she first opened parliament in November 1952.
The king’s last speech was in 1950, when King George spoke amid British involvement in the Korean War. He was too ill to open Parliament the following year and died in February 1952, with his eldest daughter Elizabeth ascending the throne.
The King today paid tribute to his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, as he attended his first State Opening of Parliament as monarch
Queen Elizabeth II sits next to her son, King Charles – then the Prince of Wales – at the State Opening of Parliament in 2019
Queen Elizabeth II on her way to the first State Opening of Parliament during her reign in 1952
After opening today with a tribute to his mother, the King delivered the words written for him, which set out the government’s policy program.
He wore the Imperial State Crown, his long crimson state robes and the dress uniform of the Admiral of the Fleet Royal Naval, after traveling in a carriage procession from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords in the Diamond State Coach amid great royal fanfare.
Camilla, who wore the famous George IV state diadem for the first time, chose to reuse her coronation dress, designed by Bruce Oldfield, for her first state opening as Queen Consort.
In recent years, the late Queen Elizabeth II has mainly opted for a sober state opening: a functional coat, day dress and hat instead of the heavy crown and robes, often with a lower arrival by car.
The changes were adopted due to her declining mobility as she approached 100, coupled with the pandemic, successive state openings following the 2019 general election and a diary conflict with Ascot in 2017.
It has been seven years since a monarch wore the imperial state crown at a state opening, the last time being in 2016.
It contains 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, five rubies and 269 pearls and weighs more than one kilogram.
King Charles III sits next to Queen Camilla during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London
King Charles III, wearing the Imperial State Crown and State Mantle, and Britain’s Queen Camilla, wearing the George IV State Diadem, walk through the Royal Gallery
King Charles III arrives for the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London
Camilla, who is wearing the famous George IV state diadem for the first time, has chosen to reuse her coronation dress, designed by Bruce Oldfield, for her first state opening as Queen Consort. Right: The Queen wearing the diadem in 2015
The Imperial State Crown arrives at the Sovereign’s entrance to the Palace of Westminster, prior to the State Opening of Parliament
The Imperial State Crown is transported from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament by horse-drawn carriage
Members of the Household Cavalry stand guard at the Norman Porch prior to the State Opening of Parliament
Charles wore the crown on his return journey to Buckingham Palace after his coronation.
It was not the first time that the king took on the important constitutional duty of opening parliament.
In 2022, as Prince of Wales, he read out the Queen’s Speech, with Elizabeth II delegating the task of opening Parliament to Charles and the then Duke of Cambridge in their roles as State Advisors in a historic move.
She stopped attending on the advice of royal doctors due to her persistent mobility problems, and died four months later at the age of 96.
The late queen stopped using the 26 steps of the royal staircase at the Sovereign’s Entrance at its opening in 2016, the year she turned 90, with Buckingham Palace saying the “modest adjustment” was made for her comfort.
But the king, who is a week away from his 75th birthday and has just returned from a busy trip to Kenya, and Queen Camilla have started using the stairs again.
His Majesty and Queen Camilla traveled from Buckingham Palace to Westminster in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, with the Imperial State Crown carried in front of them
In 1950, Charles was a chubby-cheeked toddler and stood on a wall in Clarence House, blowing kisses to his mother and grandparents as he watched the carriages in procession.
In 1951, the ailing monarch’s speech was read by the Lord High Chancellor.
In 1952, Charles’ mother was on the throne.
The prince, by then heir apparent, was almost four when the queen first opened parliament.
The Queen, wearing her tiara, was photographed having a private chat with her eldest son, learning to talk to him as he looked up at her, on the steps of the Buckingham Palace quadrangle.
In 1967, just before his 19th birthday, Charles took part in a state opening procession for the first time, traveling in a carriage with his sister Princess Anne and the Queen.
The Princess Royal will play a role in the state opening on Tuesday. As Colonel of the Blues and Royals, she will be present as Gold Stick in Waiting and will travel in the State Landau.
Heir to the throne, the Duke of Cambridge, is on a royal trip to Singapore and other members of the royal family are not expected to attend.
Camilla’s couture coronation dress – embroidered with motifs of her dogs and the names of her grandchildren – is a custom-made ivory, jacket-like dress, woven with antique gold and silver thread.
The late queen reused her own coronation dress to open parliaments in Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand in 1954 and Canada in 1957.
Camilla also wore the 18-foot-long crimson state mantle, made for the 1953 coronation of Elizabeth II, which she wore upon her arrival at the coronation.
The diamond diadem was worn numerous times by Elizabeth II during her reign and is probably the most famous of all her jewelry.
Set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, it was made for the extravagant coronation of George IV in 1821. Elizabeth II usually wore it during her journey to and from the state opening.
She seemed to wear it on coins, banknotes and stamps.
It is the monarch’s duty as head of state to formally open each new session of parliament, amid age-old traditions and customs.
At the state opening in 1952, King George had died of lung cancer just nine months earlier, while the Queen was in Kenya with Prince Philip.
The Queen spoke of King George VI’s “selfless dedication to his duties” and said it would be her “continuing endeavor” to follow that standard.
In speaking warmly of her father, the queen in 1952 echoed her grandfather, King George V, who spoke at the state opening in 1911 of the “grievous loss” of his father, Edward VII.
When the king prorogued parliament last month, he spoke warmly about his mother.
In a royal speech from Lord True, he said: ‘My thoughts go first to my beloved mother, the late Queen.
“I would like to thank you for the sympathy and support shown to my family and myself from both Houses of Parliament, the country and beyond.
“My mother exemplified selfless dedication and commitment to the United Kingdom and the wider Commonwealth throughout her long reign, an example to which I rededicated my own life in public service upon my accession just over a year ago.
“I remain deeply grateful for the expressions of loyalty offered at that time.
The late Queen Elizabeth II first opened Parliament in 1952, after the death of her father George VI