The Queen’s Speech
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The Queen’s Speech, more formally known as Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech, occurs at the opening of every Parliamentary session. It is an affair redolent of history, and surrounded by pageantry, but the central point of the thing is that the government of the day sets out its legislative programme – or the highlights thereof – for both Houses of Parliament and the wider world to hear. It is the cabinet which writes the speech, and the Prime Minister who finalises it.
Two moments of Stuart history are behind elements of the ceremonial: firstly, Parliament is searched by the Yeomen of the guard (and then more carefully by the police), Guy Fawkes ’ attempt to blow up James I and both houses of Parliament very much in mind; secondly, the official known as Black Rod sent to summon the Commons to hear the speech in the Lords is very carefully snubbed, the door slammed in his face, reminding us that the last monarch to enter the Commons was the doomed absolutist Charles I . A less celebrated aspect of proceedings is that a senior government official is kept at Buckingham Palace as surety for the safe return of the Queen while she is making her visit – the presence of the Household Cavalry as she drives in the state coach to Westminster and with swords drawn within Parliament another reminder of more fraught times.
The most fascinating moment of the ceremony, however, is when the MPs walk from Commons to Lords, headed by the PM and the Leader of the Opposition, trying to look at ease with one another but often the strain of doing so clear for all to witness.

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