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LONDON — Prince Charles, Britain’s longest king-in-waiting, got a moment in the spotlight on Tuesday, filling in for his mother at the state opening of Parliament.

As Charles, 73, presided for the first time over the House of Lords, it was possible to glimpse what he might be like as king — someday.

But as he read out “the Queen’s Speech” on his mother’s behalf, it was also clear that day is not yet here. Charles did not sit on the elaborately carved and gilded Sovereign’s Throne, but instead used the Consort’s Throne, which is similar but an inch shorter. He repeatedly said “Her Majesty’s government” not “my government” when reading the speech, which outlines the government’s priorities for the year.

Queen Elizabeth II, 96, has scaled back her activities and gradually delegated more duties to Charles and other senior British royals. The presence of Charles and Prince William at the opening was a striking visual symbol of an ongoing transition of power. But the queen doesn’t appear to have any intention of voluntarily stepping aside. The special powers the queen put in place to allow Charles to deliver the speech are a one-off, not a permanent arrangement.

In fact, the rise of video conferencing has allowed the queen to stay engaged even as the pandemic and personal health issues have gotten in the way of in-person engagements.

“Pandemic or no pandemic, it’s how the queen as monarch is going to operate for the years to come,” said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty Magazine.

Buckingham Palace cited “mobility problems” as the reason Elizabeth had to miss the ceremonial opening of Parliament for the first time in nearly six decades. Instead, Charles read the speech, written by the government, which contained 38 pieces of legislation, aimed at supporting the U.K.’s inflation-battered economy, including bills on education, housing and “leveling up,” the government’s plans to address regional inequalities.

The queen has already missed several big events in the royal diary, including services for Commonwealth Day and Remembrance Day. Last week, the palace announced she would also skip the garden party season. And there are questions about how much of her own Platinum Jubilee celebrations she’ll be able to attend next month.

As Elizabeth II begins her ‘Platinum Jubilee,’ a look back to the day she became queen in a treehouse in Kenya

But remote work seems to suit the queen well.

Like other Londoners who escaped to the countryside during the pandemic, Elizabeth shifted her home base from Buckingham Palace in London to Windsor Castle, 22 miles west. And she doesn’t appear inclined to return to city life.

From Windsor, she continues to meet virtually with ambassadors, admirals and various other dignitaries.

On Monday, she had a video call with the governor general of Australia. On Wednesday, she’s scheduled to speak, via video again, with her Privy Council advisory group. She’ll also have her weekly chat with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, that one on the phone.

“Compromises will be made and these Zoom calls are a part of them,” Little said. “The queen will not want to disappear from view the way Queen Victoria did in her later years, and this is the queen’s way of remaining visible.”

A video clip from the summer of 2020 shows the queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, talking her mother through an early Zoom call.

“Can you see everybody? You should have six people on your screen,” Anne said.

“Well, I can see four, anyway,” Elizabeth replied.

Even while Elizabeth attends fewer in-person events, the unscripted Zoom clips released by the palace give a sense that Britons are still seeing quite a bit of their queen.

Speaking to a former covid patient during a virtual hospital, the famously stoic queen acknowledged, “It does leave one very tired and exhausted, doesn’t it?”

While the video chats may not offer new insight into the queen’s personality, they may confirm people’s suspicions about her: that she’s direct, courteous and has a wicked sense of humor.

In a virtual event to mark British Science Week in 2021, Elizabeth was asked by experts to talk about meeting Yuri Gagarin in 1961, the first human to journey into space. Asked what he was like, the queen said: “Russian,” prompting giggles from the others.

“He didn’t speak English,” she continued. “He was fascinating and I suppose being the first one, it was particularly fascinating.” She quipped that one of the most important things about space travel was “coming back” again.

When presenting the poet David Constantine with a gold medal for poetry, she asked him about the medal: “Do you put it in a cupboard?”

Little noted that the queen has always had these sorts of exchanges. It’s just that if you weren’t also in a long queue waiting to pick up your own medal, you may not have heard them.

Given all the technological advancements, some wondered why the queen didn’t just record the speech from the comfort of her home in Windsor, avoiding all the pomp that comes with the state opening of Parliament.

But royal experts said that on this occasion, the spectacle mattered hugely.

“That’s part of the mystique of the monarchy,” noted Victoria Howard, a royal expert and founder of the site, The Crown Chronicles. She told the BBC: “Not having that would be a detraction of the ceremony and we’re very big on pomp in the U.K.”

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