THE issue of the succession after decades of service by a highly respected individual was on the lips of most people in parliament yesterday, but the soon-to-be former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson was nowhere near Westminster for the Queen’s Speech.
Instead, though there was more than a hint that Prince Charles may be preparing for a more prominent role in the life of the monarchy as he attended his first Queen’s Speech since 1996. His presence at Westminster came the day after it was announced that he would stand in for Her Majesty at the summit of heads of Commonwealth governments in Sri Lanka later this year.
When the Queen and her husband Prince Philip arrived yesterday they were followed by Charles, stalking behind her.
And there was a hint from that old anti-monarchist Labour MP, the beast of Bolsover Dennis Skinner in his now traditional heckle when Black Rod arrived to summon MPs to the Lords to hear the Queen. After an unusual pause he interjected: “Royal Mail for sale, Queen’s head privatised!”
But for now in the 61st year of her reign the Queen was sat on the gilt throne in the Lords to read out her government’s programme for the next year.
Having arrived earlier in the Irish State Carriage the 87-year-old Queen’s voice was clear and unbroken as she read out the speech prepared for her by Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg.
The speech was one of the less taxing the monarch has been given, lasting a mere seven minutes. But times are changing in other respects and traditions are slowly becoming more relaxed in what remains one of the most formal state occasions anywhere in the world.
For the first time since Lord Shaftesbury in 1673, the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling is not a lawyer. He also changed another tradition by not walking backwards away from the Queen once handing her the speech and later when taking it back off her.
Looking onwards trying not to smirk was ceremonial White Rod, aka Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem deputy chief whip and MP for Orkney, who in his third Queen’s Speech is now apparently finally getting used to his ceremonial role.