The Sovereign travels, since 1852, in the Irish State Coach, an ornate, enclosed, four-horse-drawn carriage. A coach carrying the royal regalia - the Imperial State Crown, the Cap of Maintenance and Sword of State – precedes the monarch.
The Sovereign’s Bargemaster and four Royal Watermen serve as boxmen on the coaches, acting as ceremonial bodyguards of the Queen and guards of the regalia.
The royal procession
The royal procession procedes makes its way along The Mall, through Horse Guards Parade, down Whitehall and Parliament Street. All along the route were posted members of Britain’s armed forces who ‘present arms’ as the royal party passes. They contribute to the pageantry of the day as well as provide security and crowd control.
The procession arrives at the Palace of Westminster at 11.15am. The Sovereign enters through the Sovereign's Entrance under the Victoria Tower, at the opposite end of the palace to Big Ben, and the royal standard replaces the union flag over Westminster until the Queen quits the Palace at the end of the ceremony.
A 41-gun artillery salute is simultaneously fired in Hyde Park and at the Tower of London. The Sovereign is received, according to the tradition of centuries, by the Earl Marshal and the Lord Great Chamberlain, both ancient offices of state with ceremonial functions.
Inside the Palace, the Sovereign dons the Imperial State Crown and ceremonial robes before making her way to the House of Lords, attended by various members of the Royal Household.
The assembly in the Lords’ Chamber includes Peers, dressed in traditional scarlet robes and ermine capes, ambassadors and high commissioners, judges, and visiting dignitaries and heads of state.
The Sovereign mounts the throne in the Lords’ Chamber at approximately 11.30am. A well-known tradition of the ceremony commences: Black Rod is dispatched to the House of Commons to summon MPs to hear the Queen’s speech.
Upon his approach, the Serjeant at Arms of the Commons slams the doors in his face. He knocks ceremonially upon them three times and is given permission to enter. Black Rod then approachs the Table and announces the Queen’s summons.
This ritual symbolises the right of the Commons to exclude royal messengers, and commemorates the events of 1642, the last time a sovereign entered the Commons, when King Charles I tried to arrest five MPs.
The Commons’ Speaker and Black Rod then lead MPs in procession to the House of Lords. Tradition has it that MPs amble to the Lords noisily, to show their independence.
MPs crowd into the space between the doors and the bar of the chamber to hear the Speech from the throne, which is delivered in neutral tones by the Sovereign and received in silence by the assembly.
After the speech, the Sovereign returns by coach to Buckingham Palace. Her exit is heralded by military trumpeters, and the royal standard is replaced by the union flag.