6 of the most random traditions surrounding the Queen's speech
So, ICYMI, it's the Queen's duty as Head of State to formally open each new session of Parliament. And it's taking place today.
It used to happen in the autumn each year, but since 2010 it's moved to May, thanks to the introduction of five-year fixed-term parliaments. FYI, the Queen doesn't sit down and type the speech out - the content is entirely drawn up by the Government and approved by the Cabinet.
But what exactly goes on during the Queen's Speech? Well, she wears a very impressive crown and there's a lot of traditions involved. Here's what we mean by that...
1. Before the Queen travels to Parliament from Buckingham Palace, certain historical "precautions" are observed.
The Yeomen of the Guard, the oldest of the royal bodyguards, arm themselves with lanterns to search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster, a practice which dates back to the Gunpowder Plot of November 5 1605. This is followed by a more scientific police search.
2. On arrival, the Queen puts on the Imperial State Crown and her parliamentary robe ready for the ceremony itself in the House of Lords. BTW, no monarch has set foot in the House of Commons since Charles I entered the Commons and tried to arrest five Members of Parliament in 1642.
3. The Queen is met at the Palace of Westminster's Sovereign's Entrance by the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain, who, as Keeper of the Royal Palace, wears scarlet court dress and has hanging at his hip the golden key to the Palace. As you do... Then, as the Queen moves up the Sovereign's Staircase to the Robing Chamber, she passes between two lines of dismounted Household Cavalry soldiers in full dress with drawn swords.
4. Another tradition sees a Government whip held "hostage" at the Palace to ensure the Queen's safe return. The role of hostage falls to Kris Hopkins MP. This custom dates back to centuries when the monarch and Parliament were on, well, less friendly terms.
5. When the Queen sits down, the Lord Great Chamberlain signals to an official, known as the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod (yes, really). He summons the House of Commons and demands their presence. As he approaches the Commons, the door of the Chamber is slammed in Black Rod's face - to demonstrate the supremacy of the Lower House over the Lords. He knocks three times with his Black Rod (ah, that's where the name comes from...) and is finally admitted.
6. The Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition and MPs follow them, and when they reach the Lords chamber they stand at the opposite end to the throne, known as the bar. The Queen's Speech is then delivered to the throne by the Lord Chancellor in a special silk bag. Oo-er.