May 11, 2021 - World

U.K. government sets out agenda in first COVID-era Queen's Speech

Queen Elizabeth walking behind the crown
Queen Elizabeth II walks behind the Imperial State Crown in the Royal Gallery of Parliament. Photo: Richard Pohle/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II laid out the U.K. government's agenda at the State Opening of Parliament on Tuesday, marking the first Queen's Speech since the pandemic began and her first major public appearance since the death of her husband, Prince Philip.

Why it matters: In a pared-back ceremony, the queen set out Prime Minister Boris Johnson's vision for recovering from a pandemic that inflicted the worst death toll in Europe and worst recession in 300 years.

  • Despite the year-long crisis, the U.K. has made major progress in the fight against the coronavirus thanks to a world-leading vaccine rollout. COVID-19 restrictions are expected to be fully lifted by this summer.
  • In her speech, which is written by the government and not reflective of her own opinions, Queen Elizabeth laid out priorities that include additional funding for the National Health Service, achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and a ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ people.

What they're saying:

My government’s priority is to deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before.
To achieve this, my government will level up opportunities across all parts of the United Kingdom, supporting jobs, businesses and economic growth and addressing the impact of the pandemic on public services.
— Queen Elizabeth II to members of parliament

Flashback: The 95-year-old queen delivered her first Queen's Speech in November 1953, when Winston Churchill was prime minister.

In photos
Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth II reads the Queen's Speech on the The Sovereign's Throne in the House of Lords chamber. Photo: Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour Party leader Keir Starmer walking through the Central Lobby during the State Opening of Parliament. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
The queen giving a speech before parliament.
The socially-distanced House of Lords chamber listens to the Queen's Speech. Photo: Eddie Mulholland/Pool/FP via Getty Images
A photo of Yeoman standing in parliament while wearing masks.
Masked Yeoman warders march along the Royal Gallery to take part in the traditional "Ceremonial Search" during the State Opening of Parliament Photo: Richard Pohle/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
the imperial crown on a pillow.
The Imperial State Crown arrives for the State Opening of Parliament. Photo: Hannah McKay/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
A crown being transported in a car.
Photo: Hannah McKay/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth in a car.
Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace by car to deliver the Queen's Speech. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images
King philip in a car.
Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, wearing a face covering, travels to the State Opening of Parliament. Photo: Hannah McKay/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Members of the House of Lords wait to enter the chamber before the State Opening of Parliament. Photo: Richard Pohle/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Yeoman standing outside of a room.
Yeoman warders march into the Prince's chamber. Photo: Richard Pohle/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
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