Duty done, a quick change, and Queen at Ascot in time for first race

The Queen and the Prince of Wales at the formal State Opening of Parliament
The Queen and the Prince of Wales at the formal State Opening of Parliament

The Queen enjoyed a day at the races today after a dash to Royal Ascot from the State Opening of Parliament – stopping only to change from a royal blue coat and hat into a bright yellow outfit.

Much of the usual pomp and pageantry at the Palace of Westminster had been watered down due to the historic ceremony taking place just four days after the Trooping of the Colour.

The Queen, seated beside the Duchess of Cornwall, during the traditional horse-drawn carriage procession at Ascot

The Queen, seated beside the Duchess of Cornwall, during the traditional horse-drawn carriage procession at Ascot

It was deemed infeasible for the military and the Royal Mews to stage two major events in such a short period.

The reduced level of formality meant the 91-year-old monarch wasted no time in getting to Ascot for the traditional carriage procession and a day of horse racing.

But missing was the Duke of Edinburgh, who was admitted to hospital on Tuesday night as a precaution after falling ill with an infection.

Philip was due to join the Queen at Westminster, where she delivered her speech setting out the government’s programme, but the Prince of Wales accompanied her instead.

Her Majesty looked delighted to have reached Ascot in good time for the horse-drawn carriage procession and sat next to Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, throughout.

The race-going Queen has a particular fondness and looks forward to attending five full days of the festival at the Berkshire course every June.

Although many of the usual trappings were missing at the Westminster ceremony, the event retained much of its grandeur with the Great Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance, symbols of the Sovereign’s power and authority, still carried before the monarch, and later joined by the Imperial state crown which was placed on a cushion on top of a table to the right of the Queen.

Despite the monarch not wearing the traditional regalia this year, most other traditions prevailed inside the Houses of Parliament.

Black Rod, the House of Lords official, summoned the House of Commons to the Lords after the Queen had taken her seat in the chamber and, in keeping with tradition, the door of the Chamber was slammed in his face to demonstrate the supremacy of the Lower House over the Lords. He knocked three times with his Black Rod, from which he derives his name, and was finally admitted.

The Serjeant-at-Arms, carrying the Mace, leads the procession to the Lords followed by the Commons Speaker and Black Rod.

As temperatures soared outside, peers donned their traditional red robes, trimmed with ermine, while bishops and wig-wearing judges jostled together in the House of Lords chamber for the speech, watched by representatives from nations including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, France and Germany.

Veteran MP Dennis Skinner saw the funny side of the Queen’s diary predicament, and in his traditional heckle ahead of the Queen’s speech joked that MPs and Black Rod should hurry up so she could make the first race at Royal Ascot.

Mr Skinner made both sides of the House laugh when he quipped: “Get your skates on, the first race is half past two.”