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In Pictures: Ceremonial pomp and pageantry at the State Opening of Parliament

·3-min read

Filled with pomp and ceremony, the Queen’s Speech took place at the formal start of the parliamentary year and set out the Government’s agenda for the coming session.

Flagpoles were erected in Parliament Square ahead of the traditional State Opening of Parliament
Flagpoles were erected in Parliament Square ahead of the traditional State Opening of Parliament (Aaron Chown/PA)

It is the only regular time when the three parts which make up Parliament – the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons – come together.

A parliamentary official walks past a cleaner in the Central Lobby
A parliamentary official walks past a cleaner in the Central Lobby (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

State Opening is the main ceremonial event of the parliamentary calendar, normally attracting large crowds and a significant television and online audience.

But this year’s State Opening was adapted, with reduced ceremonial elements and attendees to ensure it was Covid-secure.

A security officer keeps watch at the Palace of Westminster
A security officer keeps watch at the Palace of Westminster (Hannah McKay/PA)

Fewer MPs and peers were in attendance and there were no diplomatic or non-parliamentary guests.

House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg wears a mask in Central Lobby
House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg wears a mask in Central Lobby ahead of the Queen’s Speech (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The event always starts with the Queen’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, escorted by the Household Cavalry.

The Queen arrives at Sovereign’s Entrance and proceeds to the Robing Room. Wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State, she leads the Royal Procession through the Royal Gallery to the chamber of the House of Lords.

The Imperial State Crown leaves Buckingham Palace by car
The Imperial State Crown leaves Buckingham Palace by car (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
The Imperial State Crown is taken to the Palace of Westminster
The crown is taken to the Palace of Westminster (Hannah McKay/PA)

The Royal Procession was reduced this year to make it Covid-secure.

The Great Sword of State, and the Cap of Maintenance is taken from Buckingham Palace to Westminster
The Great Sword of State, and the Cap of Maintenance is taken from Buckingham Palace to Westminster (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The House of Lords official known as Black Rod is sent to summon the House of Commons. The doors to the Commons chamber are shut in his or her face, symbolising the Commons’ independence from the monarchy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (2nd left) walk through the Central Lobby
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer (2nd left) walk through the Central Lobby (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Black Rod strikes the door three times before it is opened. Members of the Commons then follow Black Rod and the Commons Speaker to the Lords chamber, standing at the opposite end to the Throne, known as the Bar of the House, to listen to the speech.

Fewer peers were in attendance for this year's Queen's Speech
Fewer peers were in attendance for this year’s Queen’s Speech (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Queen’s Speech was delivered by the Queen from the Throne in the House of Lords.

The Queen leaves Buckingham Palace to deliver the speech
The Queen leaves Buckingham Palace to deliver the speech (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Although the Queen reads the Speech, it is written by the Government. It contains an outline of its policies and proposed legislation for the new parliamentary session.

When the Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts and Parliament gets back to work. Members of both Houses debate the content of the speech and agree an “Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech”. Each House continues the debate over the planned legislative programme for several days, looking at different subject areas. The Queen’s Speech is voted on by the Commons, but rarely in the Lords.

The Queen arrives for the State Opening of Parliament
The Queen arrives for the State Opening of Parliament (Hannah McKay/PA)

It was the monarch’s first Queen’s Speech following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen arrives with the Prince of Wales to deliver the speech
The Queen arrives with the Prince of Wales to deliver the speech (Chris Jackson/PA)
The Queen delivers the speech from the throne in House of Lords
The Queen delivers the speech from the throne in House of Lords (Chris Jackson/PA)
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall listen as the Queen delivers the speech
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall listen to the speech (Chris Jackson/PA)

Traditions surrounding State Opening and the delivery of a speech by the monarch can be traced back as far as the 16th century. The current ceremony dates from the opening of the rebuilt Palace of Westminster in 1852 after the fire of 1834.

The Queen outlines the Government’s legislative programme for the coming parliamentary session
The Queen outlines the Government’s legislative programme for the coming parliamentary session (Chris Jackson/PA)
The Queen with Charles after she delivered the speech
The Queen with Charles after she delivered the speech (Chris Jackson/PA)
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