The facts King Charles III will deliver his first speech from the throne to the parliamentarians of the United Kingdom on Tuesday, November 7. Delivered at the opening of each new session, this highly symbolic ritual of British political life sets the agenda for the subjects debated in Parliament for the year to come.
For the first time since his coronation, King Charles was preparing on Tuesday November 7 to address British parliamentarians for the traditional speech from the throne. Created in the 16th century, this ritual of British political life is part of the opening ceremony of Parliament, which marks the start of the parliamentary year.
This speech, so called because delivered by the sovereign, outlines the government’s priorities for the debates to come. Usually quite vague, it should be particularly closely followed this year because it will provide the broad outlines of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s policy in the run-up to the legislative elections scheduled for next year. Following the record reign of Elizabeth II, who delivered 67 “Queen’s Speech”, this is the first time this will be a “King’s Speech” since George VI, in 1951.
First established in the 16th century, the opening ceremony of Parliament follows an enduring ritual that includes several references to British political history. It begins with a procession of the king in a horse-drawn carriage from his residence in Buckingham to the Palace of Westminster, where the two houses of Parliament are located.
Before the arrival of the monarch, the Yeomen of the Guard, the oldest military corps in the British army, searched the cellars in search of explosives, to commemorate the “Gunpowder Plot” of 1605. Catholics then tried to blow up Parliament where the Protestant King James I came to deliver this speech.
When the procession arrives, the king, wearing the ceremonial imperial crown, takes his place on the throne in the upper chamber, the House of Lords. The “gentleman usher of the black rod” (Black Rod) – a role today taken on by Sarah Clarke – then goes to summon the deputies of the House of Commons. The door is first symbolically closed in his face, as a sign of independence from the monarchy. Then the door reopens to allow the passage of the elected officials.
This ritual recalls King Charles I’s attempt in 1642 to enter the House of Commons armed to arrest five MPs whom he suspected of plotting against him, thereby breaking parliamentary privilege. Rejected at the entrance by the speaker, the king subsequently had to flee the English capital to escape the popular revolt.
Speech submitted to vote
The king then delivers the speech which lasts on average ten minutes. Written by the government, this speech no longer engages the responsibility of the sovereign since 1841. It is the Prime Minister who has the final word on its content, but it is previously the subject of fierce discussions within the government. between certain ministers and lobbies. Until the beginning of the 20th century, however, the monarch could submit marginal changes to the Prime Minister for approval.
During the speech, an MP is symbolically held “hostage” at Buckingham Palace, to ensure the security of the king upon his return. Two hours later, the deputies of the House of Commons meet to debate its content, for five days on average, then the Prime Minister submits the text to a vote. Generally symbolic and always validated, this vote was lost by Stanley Baldwin in 1924. The latter had to resign.
The opening ceremony of Parliament has continued to evolve over the centuries, depending on current circumstances. In 2016, Queen Elizabeth II, for example, used an elevator to reach the throne rather than the stairs. In 2019, the sovereign wore a tiara instead of the ceremonial imperial crown. In 2021, the opening ceremony was reduced due to Covid-19. In May 2022, Charles had already taken up the exercise as heir, replacing Elizabeth II, who was unwell.
This article is originally published on .la-croix.com