State Opening of Parliament

Candy Bellinger

Summer is officially over folks, and the State Opening of Parliament marks the beginning of the 2009-10 session. This year the State Opening takes place on Wednesday 18 November and, as always, there will be much pomp and circumstance. The lavish ceremony will first see the cellars of the Palace of Westminster searched by the Yeomen of the Guard – a reminder of the possibility of a modern-day Gunpowder Plot. And the historical traditions are key to the entire ceremony.

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The Queen, having arrived by horse-drawn coach, enters through the Sovereign's Entrance. The Royal Standard replaces the Union Flag, all the while she is in attendance, and the Queen then takes on the Robes of State and the Imperial State Crown before proceeding to the House of Lords.

As the Lord Great Chamberlain raises his wand of office, Black Rod is escorted by the doorkeeper of the House of Lords and an inspector of police (ordering "Hats off, Strangers!" to all he passes) to the chamber of the Commons.

At this point, the doors are slammed in his face, symbolising the independence of the Commons. He then strikes the door three times with his staff (hence the name Black Rod) and is admitted. Black Rod bows to the speaker before commanding all to attend.

Members of the House of Commons walk in pairs towards the House of Lords, arriving at the Bar where they remain for the Queen's Speech from the Throne, which lists the main bills to be introduced during the session. The Commons then bow again and return to their Chamber, where the cabinet is sworn in and the Speaker of the House elected.

Pomp and circumstance there may be, but the rituals and symbolism represents the unity of the government as well as the important separation of powers. Do you feel that the ceremony still has its place today or should the tradition be dispensed with to make more time for the government to get on with their work? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.