When is the State Opening of Parliament?
State Opening takes place on the first day of a new parliamentary session or shortly after a general election.
State Opening of Parliament took place on Wednesday 21 June 2017.
What is the State Opening of Parliament?
State Opening of Parliament marks the start of the parliamentary year and is the main ceremonial event of the parliamentary calendar.
During State Opening, the monarch visits parliament to deliver a speech setting out the government's agenda for the coming session.
For over 500 years, State Opening has served as a symbolic reminder of the unity of Parliament's three parts: the Sovereign; the House of Lords; and the House of Commons.
The State Opening ceremony takes place in the House of Lords Chamber but it is not a sitting of the House of Lords.
What was different about the State Opening in 2017?
Since 2010, the State Opening of Parliament has usually taken place in May or the first week of June.
Following the government's announcement of a general election scheduled to take place on 8 June 2017, a date for State Opening was set for 21 June. This was four days after the Queen's Birthday Parade.
Due to the revised calendar, the State Opening of Parliament took place with reduced ceremonial elements.
The key differences were:
- No horse-drawn carriages were used. The Queen and the Regalia of State, including the Imperial State Crown, traveled to and from Parliament by car
- The Queen did not wear the usual ceremonial robes or crown. Instead the Queen wore a day dress and hat
- There was a reduced procession, with a scaled-down presence of Royal Household staff
- The Queen was preceded by Officers of State bearing the Imperial State Crown, Sword of State and Cap of Maintenance
- The Duke of Edinburgh attended the ceremony; wearing a morning suit rather than an Admiral of the Fleet naval uniform
This change arose due to the unique circumstances of the general election.
The intention was that subsequent ceremonies would return to normal, with full regalia and procession.
Have there been similar ceremonies before?
In March 1974, the government led by Prime Minister Edward Heath called a snap general election. This was followed by a Queen's Speech on 12 March 1974 with reduced ceremonial elements, including the use of cars, day dress and no Regalia.
The first State Opening of Parliament during the Second World War, on 28 November 1939, involved less Regalia and reduced ceremonial elements. King George VI wore the uniform of an Admiral of the Fleet, with the Imperial Crown carried by a senior naval officer. Peers in attendance wore morning dress or military uniform rather than robes.