Queen’s speech sketch: ceremony changes

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
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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 prominant role in the life of the monarchy as he attended his first Queen’s Speech since the 1970s.

Just the day before it was announced that for the first time 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 they were followed into the Lords chamber by Prince Charles, stalking behind her with his wife the Duchess of Cornwall.

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, which looks like a giant crown on wheels, the 87-year-old Queen’s voice was clear and unbroken as she read out the speech prepared for her by Tory Prime Minister David cameron and his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg.

But times are changing 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 Lord Shaftesbury in 1673 the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling is not a lawyer.

His lack of professional qualifications may explain why the ceremonial coat hung uncomfortably like a sack from the Justice Secretary as he waited nervously for the MPs to arrive before handing the speech to the Queen.

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.

Instead Mr Grayling turned and shuffled down the steps from the throne looking as though he was slightly worried he might trip up on the voluminous coat.

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.