Dating back to Medieval London, this spectacular ceremony marks the beginning of the new parliamentary year and features peers and bishops in traditional robes and a royal procession. The Yeomen of the Guard (Royal bodyguards since 1485) are responsible for searching the cellars of the Houses of Parliament before the Queen arrives. A duty undertaken ever since the infamous Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament.
The Major General commanding The Household Division, who is in charge of the military side of the ceremony, precedes the Queen's procession on his charger to check that the route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster is secure. This is called "Proving the Route".
Guards of Honour are mounted at Buckingham Palace by The Queens Guard and also at the Palace of Westminster.
The Imperial State Crown
The Cap of Maintenance and The Sword of State
The Imperial State Crown carried by the Comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's Office and the Cap of Maintenance borne by the Assistant Comptroller along with the Sword of State, having been collected from the Jewel House at the Tower of London, are taken to Buckingham Palace and then escorted to the House of Lords in a carriage procession using Queen Alexandra's State Coach escorted by a Regalia Escort of The Household Cavalry.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh drive in procession in the Irish State Coach, escorted by a Sovereigns Escort of The Household Cavalry and are received at the Sovereigns Entrance by the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain.
A staircase party of The Household Cavalry is on duty at Victoria Tower, House of Lords. Her Majestys Body Guard of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms are on duty in the Princes Chamber and The Queens Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are on duty in the Royal Gallery. The Queens Bargemaster and Watermen are also on duty. The Ladies and Gentlemen of the Household and the Pages of Honour to The Queen are all in attendance at the Palace of Westminster.
The televised ceremony takes place in the House of Lords. The proceedings begin with Black Rod (the Queen's Messenger) calling 250 members of the House of Commons to the House of Lords. The door is initially slammed in his face before being re-opened after he knocks three times using his rod. This reminds everyone that the Commons can exclude all but the Sovereign's messengers.
The Queen reads The Queen's Speech from the throne in the House of Lords. This speech is prepared by the government of the day and outlines the forthcoming policies for the year. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh then return to Buckingham Palace and are received by the Lord Chamberlain and the Vice-Chamberlain of the Household.
The procession starts at Buckingham Palace at 11am and follows the Mall to Horse Guards and Whitehall and then Parliament Square and returns at 12 noon. Royal Salutes are fired in Green Park by The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery and from the Tower of London Saluting Battery by the Honourable Artillery Company.
The State Opening takes place in October or November each year. A good vantage point is St James's Park.
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The HQ London District official webpage is at: www.householddivision.org.uk
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