Queen Elizabeth II may miss opening of parliament
Queen Elizabeth II, Foreign & Commonwealth Office photo

Queen Elizabeth II may miss Britain's traditional state opening of parliament for only the third time during her 70-year reign after the government on Thursday set its date for May 10.

The queen, 95, traditionally lays out the government's legislative program during the Queen's Speech, in a ceremony stuffed with pomp and pageantry.

But Buckingham Palace said following the announcement of a date by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office that her "attendance will be confirmed in due course".

The monarch, who turns 96 next month, has been in fragile health since she spent an unscheduled night in hospital last October, and has cut back on engagements on doctor's orders.

She has largely limited her duties to meetings with foreign diplomats and pulled out of the Commonwealth Day service earlier this month, which was to have been her return to a major public event.

The queen has opened parliament all but twice during her 70-year reign. She missed the event in 1959 and 1963 when she was pregnant with the future princes Andrew and Edward.

The ceremony, watched by members of the unelected House of Lords in ermine robes, and their elected counterparts from the House of Commons, involves a procession and royal regalia including the Imperial State Crown.

The queen, accompanied in previous years by her late husband Prince Philip, or more recently by her eldest son and heir Prince Charles, is taken to parliament in a horse-drawn carriage.

But that may be out of the question, given she has complained of mobility problems and been seen using a walking stick. British media have reported she has been using a wheelchair.

Charles will likely step in if his mother cannot make the event.

Downing Street said the speech will outline the government's "plans to grow our economy, cut the cost of living, make our streets safer and clear the Covid backlogs".

Public events are planned to mark her Platinum Jubilee of 70 years on the throne from June 2-5.

© 2022 AFP