Queen Elizabeth Wears Lilac Day Dress and Hat at a Scaled-Back State Opening of Parliament

·3 min read
Photo credit: CHRIS JACKSON - Getty Images
Photo credit: CHRIS JACKSON - Getty Images

One of the Queen’s most important ceremonial functions is to formally open Parliament, which traditionally involves her wearing the glittering Imperial State Crown and ceremonial robes and traveling by coach to make a speech. However, this year the ceremony was scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic, and today the Queen made the journey to the Palace of Westminster by car and wore a lilac day dress and hat.

The State Opening was the 95-year-old Queen’s first public appearance in person since Prince Philip’s funeral on April 17, although she has held audiences and engagements digitally from Windsor Castle. She was accompanied by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at the event, who have been attending the State Opening regularly since 2013.

Photo credit: CHRIS JACKSON - Getty Images
Photo credit: CHRIS JACKSON - Getty Images

The Queen arrived at the Sovereign’s Entrance at 11:20 a.m. before leading the Royal Procession through the splendid Royal Gallery to the House of Lords where she sat on the Throne to deliver the speech. It is not written by her but prepared by Government and outlines plans for the next parliamentary session. Usually, the House of Lords is packed with politicians and diplomats and the military line her route, but this year the BBC notes that just 108 people attended the event and MPs and members of the House of Lords had to wear masks and have a negative COVID test beforehand. Charles and Camila also wore masks throughout.

Traditionally, the Queen wears the Imperial State Crown during the speech, but she has not done so since 2016 due to its heavy weight—2 pounds and 5 ounces—and her advancing years. In 2019 (the last time there was a State Opening of Parliament), she wore the lighter Diamond Diadem throughout the ceremony instead, which is the crown she usually wears to arrive for the occasion. The Imperial State Crown symbolizes the monarch’s sovereignty and is also worn at the end of the Coronation Ceremony. Today it was carried in front of her as she processed to her seat, and placed on a cushion next to her during the speech. One of the most elaborate pieces of regalia, it is set with 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 269 pearls. The crown traveled along with other regalia ahead of the Queen from Buckingham Palace by car with a police escort before the ceremony.

Photo credit: CHRIS JACKSON - Getty Images
Photo credit: CHRIS JACKSON - Getty Images

In 2013 BBC documentary The Coronation, the Queen spoke about wearing the crown, saying, “You can’t look down to read the speech, you have to take the speech up. Because if you did your neck would break, it would fall off. So there are some disadvantages to crowns, but otherwise they’re quite important things.”

It is not the first time the Queen has worn day dress for the State Opening of Parliament. In 2017 she wore a blue outfit designed by Angela Kelly with a matching hat dotted with yellow flowers. This caused some amusement; as she delivered her speech outlining the government’s plans as the UK prepared to leave the European Union people compared her hat to its flag. Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief negotiator on Brexit, posted on Twitter: "Clearly the EU still inspires some in the UK." However, Angela Kelly later noted in her 2019 book that the similarity was "a coincidence."

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

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