When King Charles was crowned back in May, it was a moment of pomp and pageantry like no other as he wore two crowns and was presented with multiple pieces of royal regalia. And today, the Crown Jewels were in use again as the King wore the Imperial State Crown for his first State Opening of Parliament as monarch.
King Charles and Queen Camilla were center-stage this morning at the traditional ceremony dating back to the 16th century which marks the formal start of the UK’s parliamentary year. Sitting on the throne in the House of Lords, the King delivered a speech which was written by the government containing proposed legislation for the new parliamentary session.
The King, 74, and Queen, 76, traveled from Buckingham Palace to the Westminster in the state-of-the-art Diamond Jubilee State Coach pulled by six Windsor Grey horses and escorted by the Household Cavalry. Once there, they changed into the Robes of State, with the King wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Queen wearing the George IV State Diadem, as well as her coronation dress designed by Bruce Oldfield.
Princess Anne, 73, also had an important job this morning, reprising the role she played at the coronation as ceremonial bodyguard known as Gold Stick in Waiting. Wearing the uniform of the Blues and the Royals—of which she is royal colonel—she traveled behind the King and Queen in the State Landau carriage.
Today is the first time the Imperial State Crown has been worn at the State Opening of Parliament since 2016. Since then, Queen Elizabeth II wore either a lighter crown or a hat in her advancing years. At the last ceremony, in May 2022, then Prince Charles stood in for his mother and the Imperial State Crown was placed on a cushion.
Containing 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and five rubies, the crown weights two pounds and 13 ounces and was made for Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838. It is the same crown that the King wore at the end of his coronation, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace and in his coronation portraits. He was crowned with the much heavier and more sacred St Edward’s Crown which was only worn inside Westminster Abbey.
The State Opening of Parliament is the ceremonial start of the parliamentary year and it is not held at the same time every year but usually takes place annually in May or November. It begins with the monarch’s procession to Westminster and the summoning of the House of Commons to the House of Lords for the speech. While the content of the speech is prepared by government, the King began today with a tribute to his late mother, saying, “It is mindful of a legacy of service and devotion to this country set by my beloved mother, the late Queen, that I deliver this, the first King’s speech in over 70 years.”
As has been the case at high-profile moments since the start of the King’s reign, republican protestors took to the streets today to call for an elected head of state. "Our parliament is opened by a King wearing a crown while sitting in the Lords,” Republic’s Graham Smith said in a statement. “It is just weird we continue with this pantomime that celebrates the worst, least democratic aspects of our political system.” Members of the organization held yellow placards which read “Not My King” which were visible as the royals arrived in their carriage.
The UK's Crown Jewels are kept in the Tower of London and can be viewed by tourists when not in use.
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