Saturday 24 February 2018

Queen takes lift for State Opening of Parliament for first time in 64 years

The Queen proceeds through the Royal Gallery ahead of the State Opening of Parliament, in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London
The Queen proceeds through the Royal Gallery ahead of the State Opening of Parliament, in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster in London

The Queen has opened Parliament on all but two occasions during her 64-year reign - b ut this year it was slightly different.

For the first time, the monarch, who turned 90 last month, used a lift rather than stairs to enter Parliament for the State Opening.

Buckingham Palace said the "modest adjustment" to arrangements had been made for "the Queen's comfort".

By taking the lift, the Queen avoided the 26 steps of the royal staircase at the Sovereign's Entrance.

The route proved a quicker one for the monarch, who then headed to the Robing Room to put on the Royal Robes and the Imperial State Crown.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: "During today's State Opening of Parliament, the Queen used the lift at the Sovereign's Entrance rather than the stairs on arrival and departure.

"This modest adjustment was made for the Queen's comfort."

It is the Queen's duty as Head of State to formally open each new session of Parliament.

The State Opening forms the most colourful event of the Parliamentary year and is steeped in tradition and customs dating back centuries.

The Queen, who turned 90 on April 21, remains active, carrying out more than 300 engagements a year.

She still rides and is occasionally spotted on one of her favourite Fell ponies, riding by the River Thames in Windsor or in Windsor Great Park.

She is known, however, to suffer from knee pain and has also had a bad back for a number of years.

In January 2003, she had keyhole surgery on her right knee after tearing cartilage when she jarred her knee walking on rough ground in Newmarket, Suffolk.

Later the same year, the Queen, then 77, returned to hospital for a similar operation on her left knee.

In October 2006, she pulled out of a visit to the new Arsenal football ground after suffering a strained muscle in her back and in 2012 cancelled her appearance at an investiture ceremony and missed a Sunday church service also because of a bad back.

In November 2013, the Duke of Cambridge stepped in to represent his grandmother at an investiture ceremony after she suffered some ''mild discomfort'' with her ankle after a busy weekend of engagements including the Festival of Remembrance and the service of remembrance at the Cenotaph.

In 2014, the Prince of Wales stood in for the Queen for part of the Order of the Bath service to avoid the monarch having to make an extra journey up and down some steep steps in full regalia.

The Queen missed the State Opening in 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward.

Previously during State Openings, when the Queen moved up the Sovereign's Staircase to the Robing Chamber, she passed between two lines of dismounted Household Cavalry soldiers in full dress with drawn swords - the only troops allowed to bear arms within the Royal Palaces.

Press Association

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