UK Politics

The Queen's Speech: Robes, tiaras and plenty of pomp

House of Lords during the Queen's Speech Image copyright PA Media

Peers dressed in their crimson velvet robes hurry into the Lords chamber, which is filled with the excited chatter of members and their guests.

Men dressed in morning suits and women in their finest dresses - several are wearing tiaras - file in alongside them, taking their seats in the famous chamber.

Among those in the small, packed gallery are the prime minister's partner, Carrie Symonds, and his father, Stanley Johnson, chatting and laughing, waiting patiently for the Queen to arrive.

Supreme Court justice Lady Hale is seen milling about the front of the room, smiling and talking to colleagues.

It was only three weeks ago she gave the bombshell ruling that Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful.

Now, she is among the justices who have a front row seat for the announcement of his plans for government.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The prime minister's partner and father, Carrie Symonds with Stanley Johnson

The famous red benches fill up fast, a number of peers using their large, white programmes to fan themselves as many of the 779 House of Lords members attempt to squeeze in. They turn to each other, catching up like it is the first day of school.

There are only a few empty seats in the centre and towards the back.

The noise - and the excited atmosphere - builds. It regularly switches from full roar to complete silence and back again, as those gathered sense the monarch may be about to arrive - only to realise it's a false alarm.

This chamber is far grander than the Commons, full of red and gold and adorned with paintings and statues.

For a room that appears too small to seat all peers, it is amazing how tiny you can feel with stained glass windows towering above and a beautifully ornate ceiling to top it off.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The Imperial State Crown is carried through Parliament and into the Lords chamber

Suddenly, a trumpet fanfare is heard in the distance, signalling that the Queen is indeed arriving and with that, a permanent hush descends.

Gallery doors are closed. Lights dipped.

Then, the lights are brought up as the Imperial State Crown - seen only at Coronations and State Openings of Parliament - is brought into the chamber.

The Queen follows - her long, white dress catches the light with every movement, sparkling as much as the crown she is wearing.

Peers and guests stand during her arrival, as the monarch takes her seat at the golden throne, with her son, Prince Charles, to her left. This is the 65th time she has performed this duty.

The House sits in silence as Black Rod - a senior parliamentary official who is the Queen's representative in the Lords - heads to the Commons to summon MPs.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Almost every seat was taken as the Queen read the speech

The atmosphere feels slightly jovial as the MPs file in from the Commons led by a smiling and laughing John Bercow, the Speaker, in his ceremonial robe.

This will be his last Queen's Speech in the job.

MPs pack into a small space below the reporters' gallery. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tucked behind the Speaker.

The Queen clears her throat and begins her speech, her voice echoing around the chamber and accompanied only by the occasional clicking of a press photographer or coughs from her audience.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Queen was accompanied by the Prince of Wales

She begins with Brexit, saying the government's "priority" has always been to secure the UK's departure from the EU on 31 October - just 17 days away.

In total, 26 bills are introduced, covering criminal justice, the NHS, education and the environment.

Ten minutes later and it's all over. The Queen rises and takes the hand of the Prince of Wales, walking slowly back to the robing room.

The doors close and the chamber bursts into noise again. Parliament is open.