LONDON — Pomp, ceremony, and a bored-looking monarch: it must be the King’s Speech.
King Charles III opened the new session of parliament for the first time as king on Tuesday — and while there weren’t any fireworks, he did get the chance to deliver some Conservative campaign slogans with a poker face.
The King’s Speech — a fixture of the U.K. political calendar — sees the monarch read out the government’s upcoming legislative agenda, signaling Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s key priorities for the next year.
In doing so, King Charles, who must remain politically neutral, got to reel off phrases like “long-term decisions” and “strengthening the social fabric” plucked straight from government talking points. He spoke about the need to make “difficult” calls and resist demands for “greater spending or borrowing.”
“By taking these long-term decisions, my government will change this country and build a better future,” Charles offered.
The royal procession was meanwhile out in full force. Westminster was shut down as the king arrived at the House of Lords on a horse-drawn carriage. He delivered the speech wearing the imperial state crown, blinged up with 2,868 diamonds.
In another bizarre piece of tradition, Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk was tasked with delivering a “purse” containing the main copy of the King’s Speech to the monarch. In doing so, he had to walk backward down the steps to the throne without tripping — in shoes described by one official as having “no grip.”
In recent years, lord chancellors have opted to turn their backs to the queen in order to mitigate the risk of an embarrassing fall — but Chalk chose to maintain the ritual.
Some parts of Tuesday’s speech could have proved awkward for the monarch, who marked himself out as an eco-warrior before ascending to the throne and found himself having to talk up government plans to boost domestic oil and gas exploration. In the event, no royal eyebrows were raised.
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