Royal Pomp: UK tradition on display for Parliament opening
LONDON (AP) — Brexit may have Britain's political system in turmoil, but the State Opening of Parliament Monday provided a return to reassuring rituals dating back centuries. The new parliamentary session was opened by Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history, in the magnificent setting of the House of Lords.
The 93-year-old monarch was accompanied by her eldest son, Prince Charles, because her husband, Prince Philip, has largely retired from public life at the age of 98. The state opening marks a rare convergence of the House of Lords, the House of Commons, and the monarch.
It includes a House of Lords official known as "Black Rod" — for the first time, a role filled by a woman, Sarah Clarke — who is rebuffed when she tries to enter the House of Commons to summon members to hear the queen.
The door is slammed in Black Rod's face to symbolize the House of Commons' independence from the monarch — then opened after Black Rod knocks three times on the door with an ebony rod. The queen's arrival at the Sovereign's Entrance in Parliament was carefully choreographed. She travels from Buckingham Palace in a horse-drawn state carriage, escorted by the Household Cavalry.
Before she arrived, the priceless Imperial State Crown and other regalia used in the ceremony was brought to Parliament in a separate heavily-guarded carriage. The crown includes 2,868 diamonds, including the Second Star of Africa diamond, and many other gems. The crown was made for King George VI's coronation in 1937, based on a crown designed for Queen Victoria in 1838.
The heavy crown is a powerful symbol of the queen's authority, but Elizabeth chose not to wear it. It was instead placed on a cushion nearby.