State Opening of Parliament

Lord Norton

Today’s State Opening of Parliament followed its usual pattern, not least in terms of who was in the chamber.  Not only do members of the two Houses assemble, but we are joined by members of the Diplomat Corps, who sit by seniority (the senior ones to the front of the box, and the very junior ones relegated to the gallery), peeresses (not to be confused with women peers), and senior judges.  The senior judges are the ones who sit on the Woolsack immediately in front of the Queen.

Before the Supreme Court was created, some commentators used to think those occupying the Woolsack were the law lords.  However, the law lords did not sit separately.  They were members of the House and sat with the rest of us, wearing their red robes.  With the creation of the Supreme Court, the Justices of the Supreme Court – in their new black robes – do sit separately, but on a bench behind the High Court Judges.  Unlike the Hugh Court Judges, they do not wear wigs. Behind the Justices of the Supreme Court sit the senior Clerks of the House, who do wear wigs – the only people regularly to sit in the chamber wearing wigs.

For the purpose of State Opening, the chamber is completely reconfigured to accompany these different groups.  The Bar of the House is also moved forward to create more space to accommodate MPs.   After the chamber empties following Queen’s Speech, there is then a major exercise to restore it, more or less, to its normal configuration in time for the House to sit at 3.30 p.m. for the moving of an address to the Queen.  The transformation, within a period of just over three hours, is remarkable.

4 comments for “State Opening of Parliament

  1. tizres
    04/06/2014 at 9:50 pm

    Can we truly have arrived in the twenty-first century without addressing fainting-pageboy syndrome?

  2. maude elwes
    05/06/2014 at 8:23 am

    What a truly beautiful new carriage the people of GB have, useful in the extreme. And the workmanship shows the brilliance of our people when they are given a task of such importance. How much we need that piece of value for money should be up for discussion along with an issue of speeches and pageantry.

    Lets kick it off with this piece from the Guardian.

  3. 06/06/2014 at 11:19 am

    Lord Norton,

    Given the quiz and other factors you must know that all watchers of you see that you are a bit addicted to unique detail. Therefore on wonders what corners are cut between more and less normal configuration in the transformation which you detect and perhaps which persons wired differently do not detect these things. This is done every year in a venue which has been very busy except in the actual transformation.

    My country has an analogous feat which is not often appreciated by everyone here:

  4. Howell of Trent Valley
    07/06/2014 at 5:17 pm

    Am I right in thinking that the procession from Buck House is/was lower key during the labour government than it was last week? Lord Norton sitting patiently within might not know.

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