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05.08.137:15 AM ET

The New Royal Job Share! Charles Attends Parliament Opening For First Tme in 17 Years

Charles and the Queen are now effectively sharing the role of monarch

The British Royal Family don’t really ‘do’ change, so gasps of astonishment and pronounced intakes of breath today as Prince Charles accompanied his mother the Queen to the state Opening of Parliament today, the most important and symbolic constitutional event in the royal calendar.

The presence of Charles by her side – for the first time in 17 years – comes after yesterday’s revelation that she is cutting back on long-haul travel and is a clear sign that the Queen is now actively handing over many of her duties to Charles.

Charles and the Queen are effectively now sharing the job of monarch.

Charles and his wife Camilla accompanied the Queen to the pageantry-rich event which marks the start of the new Parliamentary year, and introduces the legislative program. The speech is written by HM's Government, and the Monarch is constitutionally bound to deliver it as is.

Britain's Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales and His WIfe Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall leave Buckingham Palace in central London ahead of the State Opening of Parliament on May 8, 2013.  Prince Charles was set to attend the state opening of Britain's parliament alongside his mother Queen Elizabeth II, in a sign of his increasing role as his the 87-year-old monarch scales back some duties. The appearance comes a day after Buckingham Palace announced that Charles, the Prince of Wales, will represent his mother at the next Commonwealth heads of government meeting, a gathering she has only missed once in four decades. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal        (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
LEON NEAL / AFP / Getty Images

The speech is delivered in the upper chamber, the House of Lords, and when Black Rod, the Queen’s representative at Westminster, approaches the Commons to summon MPs to hear her speech, the door is slammed in his face, a symbolic reflection of the Commons’ willingness to resist the Crown in the 17th Century, before he is more cordially invited in.

Charles and Camilla travelled in their own horse-drawn carriage ahead of the Queen.

Yesterday Buckingham Palace shocked the UK with an announcement that the Queen will not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference for the first time in 40 years, sending Charles instead.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace in central London ahead of the State Opening of Parliament on May 8, 2013.  In a ceremony in the House of Lords filled with historical symbolism, Queen Elizabeth II will set out the coalition government's priorities for the new parliamentary session. AFP PHOTO/Leon Neal        (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
LEON NEAL/ AFP / Getty Images

Courtiers said it was part of a review of the Queen’s long-haul travel arrangements.

Charles’ presence at Parliament today suggests that yesterday’s announcement was  part of a carefully-planned decision to make public that the Queen will, from now on, be doing less, and we should get used to seeing Charles in her place.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 08:  Queen Elizabeth II travels by coach to the State Opening of Parliament  on May 8, 2013 in London, England. Queen Elizabeth II will unveil the coalition government's legislative programme in a speech delivered to Members of Parliament and Peers in The House of Lords. Proposed legislation is expected to be introduced on toughening immigration regulations, capping social care costs in England and setting a single state pension rate of 144 GBP per week.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II travels by coach to the State Opening of Parliament (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)

A spokesman said yesterday: "I can confirm that the Queen will be represented by the Prince of Wales. The reason is that we are reviewing the amount of long-haul travel that is taken by the Queen. As a result of that she won't be travelling to the Commonwealth heads of government meeting (Chogm) later this year."

Yeomen of the Guard march through the House of Lords before the State Opening of Parliament in London May 8, 2013.   In a ceremony in the House of Lords filled with historical symbolism, Queen Elizabeth II will set out the coalition government's priorities for the new parliamentary session. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Toby Melville        (Photo credit should read TOBY MELVILLE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOBY MELVILLE / AFP / Getty Images

The Queen first attended Chogm in Ottawa, Canada, in 1973 – missing the first one in 1971 – and has been at every summit since.

The Queen, who still carries out in excess of 400 engagements a year, is 87, while the Duke of Edinburgh will be 92 in June.

The Imperial State Crown is carried on a cushion as it arrives for the State Opening of Parliament, at the Houses of Parliament in London, Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The State Opening of Parliament marks the formal start of the parliamentary year, the Queen will deliver a speech which will set out the government's agenda for the coming year.  AFP PHOTO/POOL/Kirsty Wigglesworth        (Photo credit should read KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/AFP/Getty Images)
The Imperial State Crown is carried on a cushion as it arrives for the State Opening of Parliament (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AFP / Getty Images)

The Queen was forced to miss the Commonwealth day observance service at Westminster Abbey on 11 March – the first time she had been absent from the event in 20 years. The Duke of Edinburgh attended the engagement alone. The last time the Queen missed the service was when she had flu in 1993.

But in a clear demonstration of her commitment to the association, the Queen attended a reception at Marlborough House the same evening to sign the new Commonwealth charter despite still recovering from the symptoms of gastroenteritis.

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