Charles III today used the first King’s Speech for more than 70 years – his first as British monarch – to pay a poignant tribute to his ‘beloved mother’ Queen Elizabeth II at the State Opening of Parliament.
Addressing MPs and peers in the House of Lords this morning, he spoke of Her Majesty’s ‘legacy of service and devotion’ with his wife Queen Camilla next to him.
It was a historic and emotional moment for the King, who stepped in for his mother in May last year as she battled mobility problems. She died last September.
In paying tribute to his mother, the King, wearing the Imperial State Crown, was following in the footsteps of the Queen herself, who spoke warmly of her father when she opened Parliament for the first time in November 1952.
The last King’s Speech was in 1950 when King George spoke amid Britain’s involvement in the Korean War. He was too ill to open Parliament the following year and died in February 1952, with his eldest daughter Elizabeth ascending to the throne.
Charles showed no flicker of his own eco-consciousness as he set out Rishi Sunak‘s new legislative plan to offer annual licences for gas and oil projects in the North Sea today and ease the Net Zero ‘burden’ on Brits.
The King paid tribute to his late mother Queen Elizabeth II today as he attended his first State Opening of Parliament as monarch
King Charles III, wearing the Imperial State Crown, his Robe of State and Admiral of the Fleet Royal Naval dress uniform, was supported by his wife Queen Camilla
Britain’s King Charles III, wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State, and Britain’s Queen Camilla, wearing the George IV State Diadem, process through the Royal Gallery during the State Opening of Parliament
King Charles III was performing his State Opening duties as monarch for the first time. He stepped in for his mother last year, before she died
Queen Elizabeth II sits alongside her son King Charles – then the Prince of Wales – at the State Opening of Parliament in 2019
Queen Elizabeth II en route to the first State Opening of Parliament of her reign in 1952
Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer chat as they walk to the House of Lords to hear the King’s speech
Other measures the King announced included giving police the power to enter a property without a warrant to seize stolen goods and action to tackle the use of tech in crime, such as 3D printing templates for firearms.
Having opened with a tribute to his mother today, the King spoke the words that were written for him and which laid out the Government’s policy programme.
The main measures in the King’s Speech, were:
- Whole life jail terms to be the norm for most serious offenders, but more short sentences will be suspended;
- The worst criminals will be ‘compelled’ to attend sentencing, although it is not spelled out how;
- Sharing naked images without consent is to be made a criminal offence;
- Mr Sunak promised to create a ‘smoke-free generation’ with a law banning children currently aged 14 or under from ever buying cigarettes;
- Create an annual regime for licensing new oil and gas drilling the North Sea, something that has been rejected by Labour;
- Paving the way for driverless buses and delivery vans by 2035, including protecting passengers from being punished for crashes caused by computers;
- Curbing so-called ‘subscription traps’ that tie people into regular payments, and ‘drip pricing’ where companies bolt on costs to the up-front price they advertise;
- Public bodies will be prevented from taking part in BDS boycotts of Israel, as a law makes progress on creating an Holocaust Memorial.
Charles wore the Imperial State Crown, his lengthy crimson Robe of State and Admiral of the Fleet Royal Naval dress uniform, having travelled in a carriage procession from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords in the Diamond State Coach amid great royal fanfare. Charles wore the crown on his return journey to Buckingham Palace after his coronation.
Camilla, wearing the famous George IV State Diadem for the first time, chose to re-use her coronation gown, designed by Bruce Oldfield, for her first State Opening as a Queen consort.
The speech has been billed as a make-or-break plan to restore ‘pride’ to Britain.
Tougher justice is at the heart of the programme, made up of 20 Bills and a draft Bill, that Mr Sunak hopes can close the yawning gap in the polls.
Charles announced plans for killers convicted of the most horrific murders to get whole life orders – meaning they will never be released – while rapists and other serious sexual offenders will not be let out early from prison sentences. However, that is balanced by introducing a ‘presumption’ that sentences of a year or less will be suspended.
The King set out Rishi Sunak’s political priorities for the coming year
King Charles III sits besides Queen Camilla during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London
King Charles III arrives for the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London
King Charles III and Queen Camilla walk through the Members’ Lobby at the Palace of Westminster
Camilla, wearing the famous George IV State Diadem for the first time, has chosen to re-use her coronation gown, designed by Bruce Oldfield, for her first State Opening as a Queen consort. Right: The Queen wearing the diadem in 2015
The Imperial State Crown arrives at the Sovereign’s Entrance to the Palace of Westminster ahead of the State Opening of Parliament
The Imperial State Crown is transported by horse-drawn carriage from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament
Members of the Household Cavalry stand guard at the Norman Porch ahead of the State Opening of Parliament
In the final years of her life, the late Queen Elizabeth II mostly opted for a dressed down state opening – a functional coat, day dress and hat rather than the weighty crown and robes, often with a lower key arrival by car.
The changes were adopted due to her decreasing mobility as she neared 100, coupled with the pandemic, back-to-back State Openings due to a general election in 2019, and a diary clash with Ascot in 2017.
It has been seven years since a monarch wore the Imperial State Crown at a State Opening, the last time being in 2016. Containing 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, five rubies and 269 pearls, it weighs more than a kilogramme.
It was not the first time the King has undertaken the important constitutional duty of opening Parliament.
In 2022, as the Prince of Wales, he read the Queen’s Speech, with Elizabeth II delegating the task of opening Parliament to Charles and the then-Duke of Cambridge in their roles as counsellors of state in a historic move.
She pulled out of attending on the advice of royal doctors due to her continued mobility problems, and died four months later at the age of 96.
The late Queen stopped using the 26 steps of the royal staircase at the Sovereign’s Entrance at the opening in 2016, the year she turned 90, with Buckingham Palace saying the “modest adjustment” was made for her comfort.
But the King, who is a week away from his 75th birthday and has just returned from a busy tour to Kenya, and Queen Camilla returned to using the stairs.
His Majesty and Queen Camilla travelled to Westminster from Buckingham Palace in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, with the Imperial State Crown being carried in front of them
In 1950, Charles was then a chubby-cheeked toddler, and stood on a wall at Clarence House, blowing kisses to his mother and grandparents as he watched the carriages in procession.
In 1951, the ailing monarch’s speech was read by the Lord High Chancellor.
By 1952, Charles’s mother was on the throne.
The prince, by then the heir apparent, was almost four at the time of the Queen’s first State Opening of Parliament.
The Queen, in her diadem, was photographed having a private word with her eldest son, learning over to speak to him as he looked up at her, on the steps of the Buckingham Palace quadrangle.
In 1967, just before his 19th birthday, Charles took part in a State Opening procession for the first time, travelling in a carriage with his sister Princess Anne and the Queen.
The Princess Royal will play a role in Tuesday’s state opening. As Colonel of the Blues and Royals, she will be in attendance as Gold Stick in Waiting, and will travel in the state landau.
Heir to the throne the Duke of Cambridge is away on a royal trip to Singapore and no other members of the royal family are expected to be present.
Camilla’s couture coronation dress – embroidered with motifs of her pet dogs and the names of her grandchildren – is a tailored ivory, coat-like dress, woven with antique gold and silver thread.
The late Queen reused her own coronation gown to open parliaments in Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand in 1954 and Canada in 1957.
Camilla also wore the 5.5 metre-long crimson Robe of State, made for Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953, which she wore for her arrival at the coronation.
The Diamond Diadem was worn countless times by Elizabeth II during her reign and is probably the most well recognised of all her pieces of jewellery.
Set with 1,333 brilliant-cut diamonds, it was made for George IV’s extravagant coronation in 1821 and Elizabeth II usually wore it for her journey to and from the State Opening.
She appeared wearing it on coins, banknotes and postage stamps.
It is the monarch’s duty as head of state to formally open each new session of Parliament amid tradition and customs dating back centuries.
The Queen spoke of King George VI’s ‘selfless devotion to his duties’ and said it would be her ‘constant endeavour’ to follow that standard.
In speaking warmly of her father, the Queen in 1952 was echoing her grandfather King George V, who at the State Opening in 1911 spoke of the ‘grievous loss’ of his father Edward VII.
When the King prorogued Parliament last month, he spoke warmly of his mother.
In a royal address delivered by Lord True, he said: ‘My thoughts turn first to my beloved mother, the late Queen.
‘I wish to thank you for the sympathy and support that has been extended to my family and myself from across both Houses of Parliament, the nation and beyond.
‘My mother set an example of selfless dedication and devotion to the United Kingdom and wider Commonwealth during her long reign, an example to which I rededicated my own life of public service at my accession a little over a year ago.
‘I remain deeply grateful to the expressions of loyalty which were offered at that time.’
The late Queen Elizabeth II opened Parliament for the first time in 1952, following the death of her father George VI