At some point it had to happen. Due to health problems, Queen Elizabeth II did not participate on Tuesday in the opening session of Parliament, which is perhaps her most important protocol ceremony of the year.
The statement released the night before to explain that Prince Charles would replace his mother followed the same pattern as other recent statements, with the second obvious reading: The Queen is not good enough to play the role expected of her.
The Queen’s health concerns have been on the rise since she unexpectedly withdrew from Veterans Day last year due to a sprained back.
The Queen continues to have difficulty moving around and has spoken publicly about how “tired and exhausted” she was after contracting COVID-19 in February. As he enters a summer full of events marking the platinum anniversary of his reign, the question is whether he will be healthy enough to join in the celebrations.
The British Monarchy will have to face some tough questions about the near future. In the House of Windsor, the word “abdication” has been taboo since 1936, when Edward VIII gave up his role as king to marry the woman he loved. A dereliction of duty that contrasts with the image carefully crafted by the Queen, the nation’s top civil servant for over 70 years.
Other European royal families used abdication as a positive way to pass on the responsibilities of the crown to the next generation. In the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain, renunciation has undergone many changes. The older generation retires and the younger ones take over, giving their royal houses a much-needed injection of imagination and energy.
This was not the case in the UK. Instead of abdicating the throne, the queen attempted to phase out her public duties. In the last ten years honorary awards, royal tours and other routines have been delegated to other members of the family. Health problems hastened his retirement from public life and the Prince of Wales is regent in all but name.
Speech without surprises
In a crowded House of Lords, Charles read the Queen’s speech on Tuesday, accompanied by his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, and his eldest son and heir, the Duke of Cambridge. Choreography designed to emphasize dynastic succession.
The Queen was not physically present, but was symbolically present through her relatives and the grand imperial crown at the table in front of Prince Charles. It was also clear what the royal house would look like when the queen was gone: a “thinner” monarchy that would be limited to a straight line of succession.
This annual speech was not written by the Queen or members of her family. British government authorities draw up a text that sets out their legislative agenda for the beginning sessional period.
The speech, delivered by Prince Charles with little surprise in content, highlighted the post-COVID-19 economic recovery, the Boris Johnson government’s investment program in the country’s most disadvantaged areas, and its constitutional plans after leaving the European Union.
Carlos did exactly what was expected of him, and in less than nine minutes carefully read the government’s agenda for the year. He didn’t stop or hesitate. It is possible that there were things in the speech that he disagreed with, such as the lack of depth in the UK’s climate strategy. But as a member of a constitutional monarchy, he cannot and should not discuss official policy.
King of the Environment
The obligation to bite the tongue was not always easy for the Prince of Wales, who sometimes resorted to informal channels to pressure members of the government on matters of concern to him.
Fortunately for him, the issue that worries him most now has broad support among politicians and public opinion: the need to live in harmony with the natural world. In fact, over the past five years, the prince has regained popularity largely due to his image as the future green king.
The climate crisis is not going away, and there is no doubt that this passion for the natural world will be the defining theme of his reign when the time comes to change his mother. The biggest risk is that marginal right-wing politicians will be able to question the current government’s plans to achieve net carbon neutrality. Thus, the climate strategy will become controversial, and the members of the royal family will not be able to speak about it.
Meanwhile, as one reign comes to an end and another begins, we will see more and more of Prince Charles and less and less of the Queen.
Translated by Francisco de Zarate
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