Queen Elizabeth II opens Parliament alone in first public duty since Prince Philip’s death

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II took her place in her first official duty in public since the death of her husband Prince Philip last month.

Tuesday, a single chair sat centered on the dais as the queen presided over the ceremony of opening Parliament.

To her left, a distance away sat her son and heir, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

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Over the course of 10 minutes, the queen read her speech, which was written by the government. In it she spelled out the country’s legislative plans including the reintroduction of a bill to increase police powers, environmental initiatives, plans to ban LGBTQ conversion therapy and changes to the country’s health and social services, CNN reported.

The speech was Elizabeth’s first public, in-person event since Prince Philip’s funeral. She had continued her official duties after the two-week royal mourning period ended, attending events virtually, BBC News reported.

Traditionally, Prince Philip had accompanied the queen until 2017, when Prince Charles started taking his place. The opening ceremony is usually filled with pomp and circumstance but because of the coronavirus pandemic it was scaled down, BBC News reported. Elizabeth didn’t make the trip from Buckingham Palace to Parliament in the horse-drawn carriage and she did not wear the royal Robe of State, CNN reported.

She also did not wear a mask, unlike most of the attendees, The Washington Post reported.

Only 108 people attended, instead of the usual 600, BBC News reported.

This year the queen walked next to the Imperial State Crown and Black Rod ceremony, where Sarah Clarke, Lady Usher of the Black Rod, had the door of the Commons chamber slammed in her face, as is tradition to signify the independence of lawmakers, BBC News reported. Clarke had to hit the door three times before she was allowed to summon the lawmakers to hear the queen’s address.

The crown, which weighs nearly three pounds and is encrusted with more than 3,000 gems, sat on a table nearby as it has for state openings since 2016, BBC News reported.