8 things you should know about the Queen's Speech


The Queen's Speech has always been the centre point of the State Opening of Parliament, setting out the government's aims for the year. Here's eight things you should know about this one:

1. It was a welcome break from all things EU

In the midst of an increasingly frenzied EU referendum campaign, the pomp and ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament was a welcome distraction for all in Westminster.

But even the delivery of the Government's agenda for the next year was not enough to briefly unite all Tories and pause party in-fighting over Europe.

Instead, the absence of a Sovereignty Bill was seized upon by former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith - who accused David Cameron of improving the chances of a Remain vote.

The speech itself was largely uncontroversial - a relatively short list of 21 Bills that purposely avoided any obvious backlash from opposition parties that could rock the boat ahead of next month's referendum.

2. The Queen didn't have to think up her own speech

Queen Elizabeth II delivers her speech during the State Opening of Parliament
(Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

Handily for the Queen, she had a strict script to follow that allowed no room for ad-libbing about China.

Her speech was neatly delivered in under nine minutes in a straightforward, fuss-free manner at odds with the lavish ceremony that she was at the centre of.

Some of the Government's most worn-out riffs were missing from the speech, sparing the Queen the awkward job of repeating Government messages.

But when one is dressed in the Crown Jewels and seated on a golden throne, to speak of improving "life chances" will always smack of irony.

3. Everyone made a massive effort with their outfits

Members of the House of Lords gather to hear the Queen's Speech
(Justin Tallis/AP)

The grandeur of the event would not be complete without the spectacle put on by the peers and their wives.

Those who found space in the chamber to attend were dressed in their full ceremonial red robes with ermine capes, sat alongside judges in wigs and gowns as well as invited ambassadors and diplomats.

In keeping with tradition and despite the lack of seating in the Chamber given the more than 800 eligible Lords, a special place is reserved for wives - and now a few husbands - of peers.

A line of perfectly coiffed women in long evening gloves, their finest dresses and sparkling tiaras would likely seem remarkably extravagant to an outsider.

4. The Order of Procession is very odd

A guest of a member of the House of Lords holds her program
(Alastair Grant/AP)

The official Order of Procession handed to attendees of the State Opening is a baffling collection of bizarre titles dating back centuries - from Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary to Rouge Croix Pursuivant.

While it's commonly known that the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod will get his moment to shine, the role of the Gold Stick in Waiting, who is said to be personally responsible for the sovereign's safety, is lesser known.

Completing a long list of antiquated customs is the role of the Cap of Maintenance, a symbol of sovereign power and wealth, which is held throughout the speech on a velvet padded cushion by a peer for all to envy.

5. Dennis Skinner was true to form and made a jibe

Dennis Skinner during PMQs

"Hands off the BBC" was the shout from Dennis Skinner, resuming normal service during the Commons leg of the State Opening's pomp and circumstance.

Last year, the Labour veteran was too busy fighting newly elected SNP MPs for his seat to deliver his annual heckle at Black Rod as he summoned elected parliamentarians to attend the Queen in the Lords.

His quip drew laughs from MPs who last week digested the Government's BBC White Paper on the future of the corporation, and amid a row over the future of its recipes website.

But there was controversy, with Opposition MPs speculating that the Bolsover MP's microphone, which hangs from the chamber ceiling, may have been intentionally turned away from him.

"Censorship" was the cry from one, while others told him to raise the issue with Speaker John Bercow.

6. The Queen made history - by taking the lift

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh walk through to the Robing Room, after using a lift, rather than stairs
(Yui Mok/PA)

The Queen continues to make history in 2016, with a small first at this year's State Opening of Parliament.

Sparked by her advancing years, the Queen opted to take the lift down to the House of Lords for the first time.

It was no doubt a squeeze for the long train of her robes, which requires the assistance of three small boys to carry through Westminster Palace.

The trip in the lift meant Her Majesty avoided the 26 steps of the royal staircase at the Sovereign's Entrance.

7. Jeremy Corbyn also made history - just by attending

corbyn smiles as they walk to the house of lords
(Stefan Wermuth/PA)

It was also a historic moment for Jeremy Corbyn, who could probably imagine better places he would like to be.

For the first time in his years as an MP, he attended the House of Lords to hear the Queen's Speech.

As leader of the Labour Party, it's an event the lifelong republican can no longer get away with missing - or at least without a fresh media storm.

His handling of royal interactions has come under intense scrutiny, but he appears to have got away unscathed this time.

He was happy to show off the fact that he was sporting a trade union tie for the event, which he made clear to his younger supporters via Snapchat.

8. It was a bit awks between Corbyn and Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pass through the Central Lobby the State Opening of Parliament
(Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Small talk can be difficult at the best of times, particularly when it has to be sustained for longer than, "Hello, how are you? How about the rain today?". When small talk is also televised, it appears even more uncomfortable.

The lack of conversation between Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was on display for all to see as the pair walked from the Commons to the Lords to hear the Queen's Speech.

Cameron appeared to be trying to get the chat flowing, only to be met with a muted reply or two.

But then given Wednesday afternoon is usually a time when the two men attack each other verbally from the despatch box, perhaps they felt uneasy in an already awkward situation.