The State Opening of Parliament on Thursday 19 December marks the start of the parliamentary year and the Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s agenda.
A ‘parliament’ runs from one general election to the next. It is broken up into sessions which run for about a year – the ‘parliamentary year’. State Opening takes place on the first day of a new session.
The Queen’s Speech marks the formal start to the year. Neither House can conduct any business until after it has been read.
Members of both Houses and guests including judges, ambassadors and high commissioners gather in the Lords chamber for the speech. Many wear national or ceremonial dress.
Setting the agenda
The speech is central to the State Opening ceremony because it sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the year.
Back to work
When The Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts, and Parliament gets back to work. Members of both Houses debate the content of the speech and agree a reply, known as the ‘Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech’.
The House of Lords continues to debate the content of the speech for several days, looking at the different subject areas.
What’s different about the December 2019 ceremony?
Due to unique circumstances of the general election and the proximity to Christmas, the State Opening of Parliament will take place with reduced ceremonial elements.
The key differences will be as follows:
- No horse-drawn carriages will be used. The Queen and the Regalia of State, including the Imperial State Crown, will travel to and from Parliament by car
- The Queen will not wear the usual ceremonial robes or crown. Instead The Queen will wear a day dress and hat. There will be a reduced procession
- The Prince of Wales will attend the ceremony; wearing a morning suit rather than a Service uniform
Image: House of Lords 2019 / Photography by Roger Harris