Queen avoids full robes in COVID hit scaled-back ceremony during the state opening of parliament

·Royal Correspondent
·4 min read

fWatch: Queen arrives at State Opening of Parliament

The Queen wore day dress and hat instead of her ceremonial robes as she led a scaled back version of the state opening of parliament in her first major royal duty since the death of her husband.

The 2021 opening was affected by coronavirus restrictions as MPs and members of the House of Lords gathered in Westminster to begin a new parliamentary session.

The Queen, 95, would usually wear special robes and in years gone by, wore the Imperial State Crown as she read the speech setting out what her government would do in the coming months.

However on Tuesday she opted for a pale lilac coat with yellow floral embroidery around the collar, and a matching lilac hat – simple day dress as she wore in December 2019 when she last attended a state opening.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reads the Queen's Speech on the The Sovereign's Throne in the House of Lords chamber,, during the State Opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London on May 11, 2021, which is taking place with a reduced capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions. - The State Opening of Parliament is where Queen Elizabeth II performs her ceremonial duty of informing parliament about the government's agenda for the coming year in a Queen's Speech. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP) (Photo by EDDIE MULHOLLAND/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
The Queen sat alone without the consort's throne at the state opening on Tuesday. (AFP)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 13:  Queen Elizabeth Ll Sitting On A Throne In The House Of Lords, Palace Of Westminster, Waiting To Make Her Speech During The State Opening Of Parliament.  The Queen Is Cream Satin Evening Dress Underneath Ermine-lined Robe Of State With The Imperial State Crown And The Garter Collar With A Diamond George.  (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
The Queen in the ermine-lined robe of state and Imperial State Crown and garter collar – traditional in years gone by, but not the last two state openings. (Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Read more: Queen leaves Windsor for first time since Prince Philip's death to open Parliament

The crown was placed on a cushion nearby, as it has been for several state openings. She last wore the two pound 13 ounce crown during the 2016 opening.

What else was different in the 2021 opening?

Reduced attendance

Instead of the usual 600 or so attendees, there were just 108 people, including the Queen, at the opening.

That also included Prince Charles, his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, prime minister Boris Johnson and leader of the ppposition Sir Keir Starmer, representatives from the House of Lords and House of Commons and those involved in the ceremonial procession.

Members of the House of Lords wearing face coverings, stand socially distanced as they await the arrival of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during the State Opening of Parliament at the Houses of Parliament in London on May 11, 2021, which is taking place with a reduced capacity due to Covid-19 restrictions. - The State Opening of Parliament is where Queen Elizabeth II performs her ceremonial duty of informing parliament about the government's agenda for the coming year in a Queen's Speech. (Photo by Aaron Chown / POOL / AFP) (Photo by AARON CHOWN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Members of the House of Lords wearing face coverings ahead of the state opening of parliament. (AFP)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 19: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales proceed through the Royal Gallery on their way to the Lord's Chamber to attend the State Opening of Parliament on December 19, 2019 in London, England. In the second Queen's speech in two months, Queen Elizabeth II unveiled the majority Conservative government's legislative programme to Members of Parliament and Peers in The House of Lords.  (Photo by Jack Hill - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen and Charles proceed through the packed Royal Gallery during the 2019 state opening of parliament. (Getty Images)

There were 17 MPs and 17 members of the House of Lords there.

No diplomatic or non-parliamentary guests were invited, and all guests had to wear masks.

Those who were able to attend had to present a negative COVID test before they could have a confirmed spot.

They were selected by ballot.

No carriage procession

The Queen would usually arrive in much pomp and ceremony, in a carriage, travelling from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster.

But on Tuesday she travelled in a Rolls Royce instead.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Queen Elizabeth II arrives at the State Opening of Parliament at House of Lords on May 11, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)
The Queen travelled by car to the state opening of parliament, a change from the traditional carriage. (WireImage)
British Queen Elizabeth II travels in a horse-drawn state coach to the Houses of Parliament to deliver Queen's Speech during the State Opening of Parliament on 14 October, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by WIktor Szymanowicz/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Queen in a horse-drawn state coach to the Houses of Parliament to deliver Queen's Speech during the October 2019 opening. (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

There were no military street liners or lining of the Sovereign’s Staircase and no military band nor guard of honour outside the Palace of Westminster or as part of the procession from Buckingham Palace.

And there were no heralds in attendance, only two yeomen and gentlemen at arms, just one bishop representing the group of 26, and only the lord chief justice and the head of the Supreme Court representing the judges.

A Queen alone

Unlike in previous years, there was only one throne for the Queen's speech.

Usually the consort's throne is next to the Queen, and was the seat of Prince Philip for decades during the state event. 

Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal gallery to take part in the traditional
Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery to take part in the traditional Ceremonial Search during the state opening of parliament. (AFP)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth sits with Prince Philip as she delivers her speech in the House of Lords, during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London  June 4, 2014.   REUTERS/Carl Court/Pool   (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT POLITICS SOCIETY ROYALS)
The Queen and Philip at the 2014 opening of parliament - when she had him next to her as consort. (Reuters)

In recent years, Prince Charles has sat there.

But following the death of Prince Philip, the Queen's throne was the only one, with Charles and his wife Camilla sat on different seats to one side.

No speech handover

Usually the Queen's speech would be given straight to Her Majesty, passed over to her by the Lord Chancellor, who is currently Robert Buckland.

However to avoid contact this year, the Queen's Speech was left out for her before she arrived.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Queen Elizabeth II ahead of the Queen's Speech in the House of Lord's Chamber during the State Opening of Parliament at the House of Lords on May 11, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Queen in a lilac and yellow outfit during the Queen's Speech. (WPA Pool/Getty Images)

This was the 67th state opening of parliament the Queen has attended in her 69-year reign.

She has only missed two - when she was pregnant with her younger sons, first Prince Andrew and then Prince Edward.

Watch: Who is the Queen?

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