For decades, she presided over the State Opening of Parliament beneath the gold canopy in the House of Lords, her husband perched loyally by her side.
When Philip retired, the Queen’s eldest son dutifully stepped up from the substitute’s bench to offer his support as she announced the Government’s legislative agenda.
But yesterday, as she carried out her first major public engagement since the Duke of Edinburgh passed away last month, there was another notable, rather eerie absence from the proceedings.
For the first time since 1901, the consort’s throne, positioned next to the monarch’s since Edward VII’s reign, had been quietly removed.
For decades, The Queen presided over the State Opening of Parliament beneath the gold canopy in the House of Lords, her husband Prince Philip perched loyally by her side (pictured: the State Opening of Parliament in 2016)
As Her Majesty took her place in front of a near-empty Upper Chamber, she was left to sit just as she had in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, four weeks ago, in that unforgettable image of private, solitary grief.
Could there be a more poignant and sorrowful symbol of the Queen’s widowhood? This was her 67th State Opening; she and Philip were in their twenties when they first carried out this vital public duty.
For almost all of the long intervening years, Philip had sat dutifully beside her, resplendent on his own gold throne, listening attentively as she delivered to Parliament and to the nation her ministers’ various programmes – the mundane and the visionary alike.
In later years, of course, the duke took a well-deserved retirement from public life and the onerous roles of state.
Prince Charles took his father’s lead in 2017, sitting in the consort’s throne and providing a similar companionship to the monarch.
Yesterday, though, the absence of the throne captured the absence of the duke with a wordless power.
It was a sight that the country had never seen before, and one that we will not soon forget. But then the whole ceremony yesterday felt like departure from the usual fare. No horse-drawn carriages. No train-bearing page boys.
The absence of peers’ wives rendered the Lords’ red benches oddly bling-free. Shorn of much of its pageantry thanks to the Covid pestilence, the event felt more procedure than pomp.
It was why the consort’s throne had remained at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, under the care of the Lord Great Chamberlain.
Yesterday, as she carried out her first major public engagement since the Duke of Edinburgh passed away last month, the consort’s throne, positioned next to the monarch’s (left) since Edward VII’s reign, had been quietly removed for the first time since 1901 (pictured right: Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall)
To maintain social distancing Charles and Camilla were seated on chairs of State, to the Queen’s left.
Her Majesty’s motorcade had arrived to the Sovereign’s Entrance at 11.25am. The Queen had chosen a simple black Range Rover. No fuss, no fanfare. The stately robes, too, remained mothballed, HM preferring a simple grey jacket adorned with lemon flowers and a matching hat by her dressmaker Angela Kelly. Face mask? As the fully vaccinated head of State, one had earned the right to dispense with it. Outside, Parliament Square was deserted. Tumbleweed alley.