The Queen's Speech: What is the Queen's Speech and the State Opening of Parliament?

Last updated at 07:08
Queen-giving-her-speech-in-Parliament.Reuters
The Queen's speech is one of the most impressive scenes in Parliament

The Queen's Speech is one of the most traditional and famous rituals of Parliament.

It's the formal way that the government re-opens Parliament after a break and sets out their plans for what they want to achieve. It's written by politicians but read out by the Queen.

This year the traditional pomp and ceremony will be a bit different for lots of reasons.

Here's what you need to know.

What actually IS the Queen's Speech?
Queen gives her Speech in 2016PA
Here is the Queen giving her Speech in 2016

The Queen's Speech is part of what is called the State Opening of Parliament.

This is a bit like the start of a new school year for politicians. The proper name given to this is the start of a Parliamentary session.

The State Opening of Parliament, and therefore the Queen's Speech, takes place this year on 11 May following the elections in England Scotland and Wales.

Hundreds of people standing in Parliament and watching the Queen and Prince Charles walk in a processionGetty Images
Far fewer people will attend this year's Queen's Speech

The Queen's Speech explains the government's plans for the coming year.

She reads it out in front of members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, and there is normally one Queen's Speech every year.

The last one, on 19 December 2019, enabled Boris Johnson to set out his agenda, one week after winning the last general election.

What's the ceremony like?
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What is the Queen's speech? (2017)

The ceremony, as it usually unfolds, dates back to 1852.

The Queen normally rides in a grand state coach from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords in Westminster with all sorts of parades and military bands performing.

In recent years these ceremonial elements have been scaled back - in part due to the Queen's age and the time of year it takes place.

The 2021 occasion will also be the first to happen during the coronavirus pandemic when big crowds aren't advised.

Only 74 people in total allowed in the main Lords chamber, with a further 34 MPs and peers watching from the Royal Gallery. Everyone in attendance will have to test negative for Covid beforehand and wear a mask.

Queen's Speech in 2017Reuters
Elizabeth II giving the Queen's Speech in 2017

When the Queen enters the House of Lords, everyone there stands up. Everyone is wearing their smartest robes and finery.

Next, the Queen takes her place on the throne and says: "My Lords, pray be seated."

Once this has happened, the Queen's messenger called Black Rod will walk to the door of the House of Commons, where MPs work, but it will be slammed in his face!

It might seem a bit rude but it's meant to show that House of Commons is independent.

Black Rod knocking on the door to the House of Commons chamberGetty Images
The name 'Black Rod' refers to the person - not the stick in his hand. Here he is knocking on the door three times

Black Rod knocks on the door three times with his stick. He's then allowed to go in and asks the MPs to come to the House of Lords to listen to the Queen.

An official known as the Lord Chancellor hands the speech to the Queen, and she will read it to everyone there.

Who will be with the Queen?
The Queen was accompanied by Prince Charles
The Queen will again be accompanied by Prince Charles

This will be one of Her Majesty's first major royal appearances since the death of her husband Prince Philip.

For decades, Prince Philip used to accompany the monarch to the occasion, sitting on an ornate golden throne at his wife's side.

Her eldest son Prince Charles, who will be the next on the throne, will accompany her this time.

It's not the first time he has done this. Prince Charles has been at his mother's side for the last three state openings - in December 2019, October 2019 and in June 2017.

What happens after the speech is given?
ParliamentReuters

After the Queen has finished her speech and the State Opening is over, she returns to Buckingham Palace.

In the afternoon, the government's plans - which were explained in the speech - are debated in the House of Commons and MPs will eventually have the chance to vote on it.