Often what British royals do is far more consequential than what they say. At tomorrow’s State Opening of Parliament, Queen Elizabeth II will read out her government’s agenda for the coming session, this time expected to include immigration reforms, a cap on the cost of social care, a measure to control dangerous dogs and another to ban wild animals in circuses. Some of these legislative plans might appear a little weightier than others, but the really big news will be sitting mutely alongside Her Majesty. For the first time, the Queen will be accompanied to this annual ceremonial fixture not only by her doughty husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, but by their son—and her heir—the Prince of Wales, and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. Their presence will signal a shift in public life that is likely to impact far more Britons than any law about muzzling pitbulls. After more than 60 years, the Elizabethan era is drawing to a close, and the Charlesian age is dawning.
On May 7, on the eve of the State Opening, Buckingham Palace also announced that for the first time since 1973 the Queen, the head of the Commonwealth, will not attend November’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Prince Charles will deputize for her, traveling to Sri Lanka in her place. The Queen, at 87, looks frail, but is in good health, according to a palace insider, who does concede that officials “are pacing her commitments.” Charles will “increasingly share constitutional duties.”