The Queen has opened the first session of the new Parliament today as she led proceedings for the annual State Opening of Parliament. Travelling with the Duke of Edinburgh in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, Her Majesty was also joined at Westminster by the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and also the Princess Royal.
Her Majesty arrived a short while after 11 o’clock and was preceded by the carriages containing the royal regalia and other members of the Royal Family accompanying her.
As usual, The Queen’s arrival was heralded by fanfare and also the Royal Standard being raised above the Palace of Westminster (which is still a royal palace) in place of the Union Flag, as Her Majesty was greeted by senior figures including the Earl Marshal (the Duke of Norfolk) and the Lord Great Chamberlain.
Proceedings were held up slightly again this year as the House of Commons was still in prayers as The Queen’s messenger, Black Rod, came to approach the House to summon them to hear the speech, a fact television commentators said was due to the speed at which The Queen prepared her state wear (including the Imperial State Crown) before emerging.
A number of new faces filled the traditional offices this year including Michael Gove who performed his role as Lord Chancellor, wearing the full traditional outfit, and presenting the speech to Her Majesty. Mr Gove however forwent the now outmoded tradition of walking backwards after handing The Queen her speech, a custom which has almost entirely been abolished within the Royal Household.
The State Opening is the one time in the year regularly where all three components of the legislature assemble in the same place: The Queen, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
MPs were summoned to the Lords by The Queen’s messenger Black Rod who – as by tradition – had the door to the Commons ‘ceremonially’ slammed in his face as a symbol of the Commons’ autonomy before being let in to deliver his summons.
Those who are regular followers of State Opening day will have been surprised to see that Dennis Skinner – veteran Labour MP – eschewed his traditional quip to Black Rod this year, a fact it is claimed is down to ongoing disputes over seating in the Commons as the larger delegation of SNP MPs now occupy the benches where Mr Skinner had formally sat among Labour MPs on the opposition bench.
The State Opening was formerly held during the later part of the year, around November time, however following changes in 2011 which introduced fixed term parliaments, the occasion now takes place around May/June.
Gun salutes were fired from Green Park and the Tower of London among other saluting platforms around the UK today to mark the State Opening, as is traditional, while at the Palace of Westminster, the Grenadier Guards provided the Guard of Honour to welcome The Queen and to play the national anthem upon her arrival. The Welsh Guards – in their centenary year – provided the guard at Buckingham Palace for The Queen’s departure and return. They will also be trooping their colour on Horse Guards Parade in a few weeks’ time in front of The Queen.
photo credit: Crown Copyright 2015, Sergeant Rupert Frere RLC