State Opening of Parliament will feature fewer troops but maintain military pomp

The State Opening of Parliament will feature ceremonial elements designed for the Queen but now the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cambridge will take centre stage.

The head of state was due to travel by a state limousine, instead of a carriage, to the Palace of Westminster for her comfort, during a ceremony which will feature fewer troops but maintain the military pomp and splendour, the Ministry of Defence has said.

Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will use the same transport and it is likely they will be joined by William, who, along with his father, has been designated by the Queen to open the new parliamentary session.

In past years when carriages were used, the route was lined by military personnel from the three services and mounted officers and troopers from the Household Division of the British Army provided an escort for the Crown Regalia and the Queen’s carriage procession from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords.

The Duke of Cambridge
The Duke of Cambridge has been designated to open the new parliamentary session (Jeff Spicer/PA)

The Regalia – the Imperial State Crown, the Cap of Maintenance and Sword of State – travelled in their own carriage, ahead of the monarch, escorted by senior members of the royal household.

However, for Tuesday’s ceremony two mounted divisions of the Household Cavalry will form two rows at Horse Guards Parade creating a “secure passage” the royal party’s limousine can travel through on its way to parliament. The Crown Regalia will be also transported by car.

The mounted officers and troopers will be joined by the Band of the Scots Guards, directed by Major Tony Williams, who will provide musical accompaniment and on the Whitehall side of Horse Guards, the Queen’s Life Guard will turn out to form a secure mounted guard in the front yard of the London Army Headquarters.

Some elements of the day have not changed and when Charles, Camilla and William reach parliament, a 41-gun salute will be fired by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery from nearby Green Park.

As the prince, duchess and duke make their way through the building, dismounted Troopers from the Household Cavalry in full State kit of plumed helmets, mirror polished boots and swords drawn will line the staircase at the entrance.

They are the only troops allowed to bear arms within the Royal Palaces.

The Queen would have led a procession through the Royal Gallery but now the royal trio will follow the route to the Chamber of the House of Lords.

The Sovereign’s Procession is led by senior parliamentary and government officers, including the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords and the Lord Privy Seal.

The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod
The Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod knocks three times (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Great Sword of State and the Cap of Maintenance, symbols of the Sovereign’s power and authority, are carried in front.

When the royal party sits down the Lord Great Chamberlain will signal to an official, known as the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, in his capacity as the Sovereign’s Messenger to summon the House of Commons and demand 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, from which he derives his name, and is finally admitted.

Black Rod says: “Mr Speaker. The Queen commands this Honourable House” – bowing to the left and to the right as he does so – “to attend Her Majesty immediately in the House of Peers.”

This tradition is a reminder of the right of the Commons to exclude everyone but the Sovereign’s messengers.

The Serjeant-at-Arms, carrying the mace, leads the procession to the Lords followed by the Commons Speaker and Black Rod.

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 delivered to the throne by the Lord Chancellor in a special silk bag.