And so, the queen traveled by Bentley limousine instead of horse and carriage from Buckingham Palace, through St James’s Park, to the Palace of Westminster.
She did not wear her royal robes, nor did she wear the bejeweled Imperial State Crown, or even the lighter Diamond Diadem. Instead, her crown rested on a pillow beside her.
The trumpeters did trumpet the fanfare, and there were men in wigs and women in gold brocade.
How did the queen look? Pretty good.
As she passed through the Royal Gallery, she lightly held the hand of her son Prince Charles, but marched confidently up the steps to the Great Throne with steady, unaided steps.
She wore a long mauve jacket with a matching hat. And notably, no mask.
Usually, Westminster would be packed with 600 members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, with the barons and baronesses sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, dressed up in their blood-red robes and white (real)-fur collars, looking like rows of applicants for Santa’s job.
But this year they sat at socially distanced intervals, and their number was greatly reduced, to around 100. Almost everyone wore a mask, and everyone present was required to have a negative coronavirus test before attending.
BBC live television coverage began with the report that “the regalia are on their way,” meaning the crown, a sword and other assorted objects, usually stored in the Tower of London.
The highlight of the opening is the Queen’s Speech, which lays out the government’s legislative program for the coming session.
It is important to remember that though the speech is read by the queen, it is not written by the queen or the palace. It is written by “her government,” and during her long reign, both liberals and conservatives have been in charge.
By design, the speech contains no soaring language, and is more of a laundry list. Still, it is aspirational, and notes the two dozen bills that Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to see passed, in one form or another.
With a large majority of Conservative Party lawmakers, after a string of election wins, Johnson is likely to pass a lot of his agenda, though some of it is bitterly opposed by the opposition.
Sitting on the throne, the queen began: “My lords and members of the House of Commons. My Government’s priority is to deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before.”
The speech lasted just 10 minutes, and the queen read the words in a dispassionate monotone.
The agenda focused on adult education, homeownership and what Johnson calls “leveling-up,” by spreading money and attention “across all parts of the United Kingdom, supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth and addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services,” with a focus on struggling regions in the north where voters have pivoted away from the Labour Party to the Conservatives.
The Johnson agenda features some hot-button bills, including proposals to make it mandatory for voters in British elections to present identification.
The opposition quickly drew parallels to related controversies in the United States, where, they pointed out, researchers have found that such laws can lower minority turnout and benefit the Republican Party.
Also controversial are new policing measures that critics say could suppress public demonstrations.
Addressing the push made by President Donald Trump during his term for NATO members to increase their spending, the queen announced, “My ministers will provide our gallant Armed Forces with the biggest spending increase in 30 years, taking forward their program of modernization and reinforcing the United Kingdom’s commitment to NATO.”
The monarch also geeked out a bit, promising that her government will transform connectivity by rail and bus and extend 5G mobile coverage and gigabit-capable broadband.
The speech noted coming investment “in new green industries to create jobs,” and the Johnson government’s commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
Finally, the queen mentioned that “measures will be brought forward to address racial and ethnic disparities and ban conversion therapy,” the practice of trying to suppress a person from being gay or from living as transgender.
Before such a ban is passed, the BBC reported, the public will be consulted on how best to address the problem, to take into account religious freedoms and to protect legitimate therapy.
Karla Adam contributed to this report.