London — Just weeks away from the U.K. marking her record seven-decade reign,is missing out on one of her most watched annual appearances due to lingering health issues. CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams reports that the formal State Opening of Parliament proceeded on Tuesday morning with all the pomp and circumstance that define Britain's institutions — but the queen's seat was empty.
Her son Prince Charles, heir to the throne, filled the roll for the queen on Tuesday, aided by his son, Prince William. The Imperial State Crown was there, chauffeured to Parliament by Charles and William, but only the reigning monarch is allowed to wear it, so it sat empty.
"The queen continues to experience episodic mobility problems" Buckingham Palace said in a statement, explaining that she had "reluctantly decided" not to attend the ceremony which formally opens Britain's new legislative session.
The queen was said to be watching the ceremony at home in Windsor Castle on TV. It's thought she was still carrying out most of her official duties, as Williams reports, the fact that she was physically unable to make Tuesday's event is symbolic — and for many in the U.K., sad.
Opening Parliament is the British monarch's constitutional duty. During her 70 years on the throne, Elizabeth has missed it only twice. The last time she couldn't attend was 1963, when she was pregnant.
She traditionally comes in full royal robes and crown to read a speech before the gathered lawmakers. The speech itself is written by the government and outlines its legislative plans for the months ahead. On Tuesday, that duty fell in Charles' hands for the first time.
"The risk," veteran royal correspondent Roya Nikkhah explained to CBS News, "is that the queen is walking in the chamber and suddenly has to stop — and she wouldn't want that, and neither would anybody else."
Queen Elizabeth II recently, and she still appears to be in fine form for a woman of her age. Lately, however, she has been seen using a walking stick, and she's pulled out of several events, citing her mobility issues.
The last two years haven't been easy for the matriarch of the House of Windsor. Sheabout a year ago, and has seen her second son .
But stepping aside early to make way for Prince Charles to become King Charles, apparently is not on the cards.
"The 'A word' — abdication — in this country is toxic," said Nikkhah. "The queen made a commitment when she was young, and at her coronation, that her job was for life… The queen will not be going anywhere while she is still able to do her job."
After her absence in Parliament on Tuesday, however, all eyes will be on the queen's Platinum Jubilee next month — a four-day celebration and national holiday to mark her record seven decades on the throne.
The festivities will include a military parade, street parties and a pop concert at Buckingham Palace. The question is to what extent she'll be able to take part.
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