Today I was watching the State Opening of Parliament at Westminster. The ceremonial is interesting and it is about a multitude of details and how it is very different from the way we, in Canada, open Parliament in Ottawa with the Governor General or even with the Queen.
The parade from Buckingham Palace which is undergoing major renovations at this time, saw a first maroon coloured Rolls Royce with the Imperial State Crown with its 3000 precious stones and large diamonds on a cushion on display with a senior military officer being driven down to Parliament. The second maroon coloured Rolls Royce had 2 senior Officers one carrying the Cap of Maintenance and the other the Great Sword of State of 1685 which represent the authority of the Sovereign. The Cap of Maintenance is a strange hat a gift of the Pope , it was first gifted to both Henry VII and Henry VIII during their respective reigns.
The Kings were so pleased to have received this special privilege from The Vatican, they paraded the Cap on a stick around the City of London to solidify the monarch’s authority.
The third Rolls Royce carries 2 Royal Mace which are so large that the windows are open and they stick out. The Procession continues with a fourth Rolls Royce, today carrying HRH Prince William and finally the last car carried HRH The Prince of Wales and his wise the Duchess of Cornwall. As they past down Great George Street the honour guard will give the Royal Salute to each passing car.
This year the HRH Prince Charles entered the House of Peers (Lords) by the door on the Left of the Throne and exited the same way, though he is the Heir, he still represented the Sovereign, usually the Queen enters by the right door to the Throne and exits by the left door this for practical reasons as she explained once, wearing the long Ermine cape it is so heavy that it is not possible to walk backwards.
HRH Prince William accompanied by Lord Chomondoley (pronouced Chumley) who is Lord Great Chamberlain of England who walks in front of the Sovereign with the white staff.
The order in which members of the Royal Family arrive anywhere is prescribed order by rank of seniority, the junior first and the senior last. In this case Prince William arrived before his father Prince Charles.
Prince William is below the Throne on the left of the photo next to Baroness Evans of Bowes. Prince Charles sits on the Throne reserved for the Heir on the right, the Imperial State Crown is next to him in the post where usually the Throne of the Queen would be. Next Camilla Duchess of Cornwall.
Unlike Canada, the Prime Minister and other MPs are at the back of the room by the door. In Canada the Prime Minister sits next to the Throne, while MPs are gathered at the back of the Senate Chamber. In Canada if the Queen opens Parliament, there is no Crown, but she will wear a tiara, usually the Queen Alexandra Kokoshnik Tiara of 1888.
The pomp today in Parliament was somewhat restrained given the Queen was not present and honours for the Heir to the Throne cannot be similar. Also I found that Prince Charles and Prince William were subdued in their demeanor. No doubt they know more about the Queen’s state of health than we do. The opening parliament is one of the Queen’s most important constitutional duties, and she can’t just ask someone else to do it for her. She had to issue Letters Patent that enabled two of her Counsellors of State—the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge—to perform the duty in her place. The Prince of Wales was deputized to read the speech on his mother’s behalf.
Prince Charles wore the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet, the same one that was worn by his father for years for the same event. You’ll note that the orders worn with the uniform include the collar and star of the Order of the Garter, the dark green sash and star of the Order of the Thistle, and the neck badge of the Order of the Bath.
It was in a way a look at how it will be when Prince Charles becomes King and Camilla is Queen Consort. Prince William will then be the Heir.