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On The UK State Opening Of Parliament And Its Traditions | Blog | William Cody Winter .Com

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On The UK State Opening Of Parliament And Its Traditions

A brief post on the UK State Opening of Parliament and its customs that are steeped in hundreds of years of traditions.
The Queen and Philip on throne in Paraliment
The State Opening of Parliament is an annual ceremony which unites not just the lower and upper houses, but also parliament with the crown.
It is both a chance for the government to announce their new and upcoming bills to the world and a chance to show off the grandeur and splendour of our Constitutional Monarchy and heritage.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II makes her way from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament in the Diamond Jubilee state coach escorted by her cavalry. The Diamond Jubilee state coach is relatively new being commissioned for her Diamond Jubilee (60 years on the throne) in 2012. It may have been made in Australia, but it is very British indeed and is perhaps the most interesting coach ever made, containing fragments of Henry VIII's warship the Mary Rose, Sir Issac Newton's apple tree, the gun metal used for Victoria Crosses, and the Stone of Destiny. A hundred items in total. If this doesn’t make it interesting enough, it has an unique blend of the old with the new, featuring a carved Imperial Crown on the roof that has been hollowed out so that it can feature a small camera to record the crowds reactions. It also has lighting, heating and electric windows. The lion in the Royal Coat of Arms has also been painted so that no matter where you are standing its eyes are always on you.

Before she leaves from the palace, parliament first must send a hostage Member of Parliament (MP) to Buckingham Palace where he/she will stay under guard until the Queen returns. This custom dates back hundreds of years to when the Crown and Parliament were on less friendly terms. This is an attempt at ensuring the Queen’s safety. Once there, she makes her way to the Robing Room to put on the Robe of State and the Imperial State Crown (which weighs two pounds). When ready she makes her way hand-in-hand with her husband to the House of Lords (the upper house).

In the few days leading up to the State Opening, the Yeomen of the Guard carrying lanterns search the cellars beneath Parliament, this tradition dates back to when Guy Fawkes placed barrels of gunpowder in the cellars (5th November 1605) in an attempt to blow up both MPs, Peers and the King. The police later conduct their own more thorough search.

The Lords assemble in the House of Peers (the ceremonial name for the House of Lords) wearing their ermine-trimmed red robes. Meanwhile, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod (Black Rod for short) goes to the House of Commons to summon the MPs to attend the House of Peers to hear Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech. When he gets to the door it is slammed in his face and he must first knock three times with his staff on the door to be allowed entry. This came about after King Charles I made an attempt at arresting five MPs in the Commons in 1642. In recent years, the Black Rod has received jibes shouted out when he enters by the notorious anti-monarchy socialist MP Dennis Skinner. In 1980, Skinner would even make an attempt at blocking the Black Rod’s entry into the Commons.
Photo of the Black Rod

Mr (or Madam) Speaker, The Queen commands this honourable House to attend Her Majesty immediately in the House of Peers.

The lord chancellor hands the Queen who is seated beside (but slightly above) her husband Prince Philip, the speech  taken from a silk bag. He then traditionally walks backwards away from her, avoiding turning his back on her, which would be considered an insult.

The Queen then gives the speech in a neutral tone as not to imply any approval or disapproval with the government’s policies.
The Queen reading in House of Lords
She ends the speech with

My Lords and members of the House of Commons: I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.

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