The State Opening of Parliament Explained

Posted: June 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

A Venerable Puzzle

Today the Queen opened the final session of the 55th Parliament with the customary Speech from the Throne. This magnificent event, which is formally known as the ‘State Opening of Parliament,’ is absolutely chock full of pomp and circumstance. It’s a time of antique costumes and arcane rituals, where the humdrum reality of politics vanishes beneath fairy-tale pageantry. But today’s ceremonies are more than just a colorful display for gawking tourists. It is an extraordinary blend of ancient and modern that is, in many ways, a microcosm of the British constitution itself. Here are some of the rituals that make up the State Opening and their significance.

Searching the Cellars. The day of the State Opening begins when the Ye0men of the Guard search the cellars beneath the Palace of Westminster. The Yeomen of the Guard are one of the corps that make up the Sovereign’s bodyguard, though their role today is largely ceremonial. They wear a…

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