Why Wales visit was a difficult one for the Queen and how she showed her strength

The Queen's formally opens Welsh Parliament

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Thursday marked the Queen’s first visit to Wales in five years and saw her officially opening the Senedd. The event marks the ceremonial start of the term, but the Queen took time to comment on the spirit of the Welsh people, despite her own difficulties.

The Wales visit marks a sad occasion for the Queen – it is the first time she’s opened the Senedd, or visited Wales, since the death of her husband, Prince Philip.

On previous occasions, Prince Philip attended the ceremony with his wife, offering her support and backup as usual.

But after his death in April 2021, Queen Elizabeth must now undertake events such as this on her own, though the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall travelled with her as support.

However, this didn’t stop her from doing her job, even taking time to commend the Welsh people on their “spirit” for which they are “so renowned”.

The Queen arrived to a 21-gun salute, sounding out across Cardiff Bay to mark her arrival.

At the steps of the Senedd, she was greeted by pupils from Mount Stuart Primary School.

She then walked a short distance from the Senedd – the 95-year-old has just in recent days started using a walking stick.

After meeting First Minister Mark Drakeford and Elin Jones, mace-bearer Shaz Khan led her into the debating chamber.

As is tradition, the mace was placed in its sconce in the Senedd to signify the official opening.

As she arrived the Welsh National Opera’s (WNO) youth branch performed Ar Lan yr Môr.

Speaking in the Senedd, the Queen said: “We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who have risen so magnificently to the challenges of the last 18 months, from key workers to volunteers who have done so much to serve their communities.

“They are shining examples of the spirit for which the Welsh people are so renowned, a spirit which I have personally encountered so many times.”

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She added the “Welsh people have much to be proud of.”

The Queen also mentioned her family homes in Wales, describing them as a “source of pleasure”.

She said: “It is a source of pleasure that both The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, together with The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have had homes in Wales, and experienced its very special sense of community.

She went on to say the decision to change the name of the institution from National Assembly for Wales to Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament “demonstrates your status as a national parliament”.

The Senedd’s move to virtual meetings at the start of the pandemic was also commended.

She said: “The fact that all parties showed a determination that you should continue to meet is commendable, and testament to your commitment to scrutinise the government, on behalf of the people of Wales.”

Then, Eleri Griffiths and Oliver Edwards Davies of the Welsh Youth Parliament read a poem called Ein Llais to the chamber.

Written by children from 24 primary schools, it spoke about their hopes for the future.

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