State Opening of Parliament: A Fascinating Show of British Pomp and Pageantry

queen elizabeth prepares read queen's speech state opening parliament

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Her role as head of state may be technically ceremonial, but Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is still required to preside over a political event crucial to the well-being of her nation.

The State Opening of Parliament is the formal start of the governmental year, taking place in either May or June inside the House of Lords chamber.

queen elizabeth holds prince philip hand walk through royal gallery state opening parliament 2016

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prince philip holds queen elizabeth II white glove hand state opening parliament 2016

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The Queen, wearing the Imperial State Crown and the ermine and velvet-lined Parliament robe (also known as Robe of the State) reads a speech outlined by the government to set the session’s agenda. 

queen elizabeth II prince philip lead state opening parliament 2016

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The crown is normally housed at the Tower of London with other crown jewels, as it is the property of the United Kingdom.  

If anything from the collection is ever missing from the Tower exhibit, that means it’s either in use…or it’s been stolen.

imperial state crown arrives state opening parliament 2016

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According to the British Monarchy’s website, the crown weighs two pounds, and features 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies.

The gemstones include the Second Star of Africa, the second largest cut stone from the Cullinan Diamond, the largest diamond ever found.  It was mined from South Africa and gifted to Edward VII in 1907, according to the Royal Collection.

The crown is delivered on a pillow to the Palace of Westminster in its own state coach ahead of Her Majesty’s arrival, who rides over from Buckingham Palace with the Duke of Edinburgh in the Jubilee State Coach.

queen elizabeth wears george IV diadem travels house of parliament jubilee state coach

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Today Her Majesty donned the George IV diadem (set with over 1300 diamonds) and a white gown by Angela Kelly.

The diadem features four bouquets of rose, shamrock and thistle to represent England, Ireland and Scotland, respectively.

Once inside, Her Majesty changes headware and drapes the robe over her dress.

The Queen selects jewelry significant for the occasion, as it’s one of the most awe-inspring and historical events on the royal calendar, dating back to the 1500s.

queen elizabeth II George IV diadem white dress state opening parliament 2016

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Today, the Queen adorned her ears with Queen Victoria’s pearl drop earrings,complemented by the Diamond Jubilee necklace.

In the past, she’s worn Queen Victoria’s coronation jewels.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall joined Her Majesty and Prince Philip.  Camilla wore the Queen Mother’s Greville tiara for the occasion with a beautiful white satin dress.

camilla duchess cornwall white dress tiara blue sash walks up stairs house parliament

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Downton Abbey‘s Jim Carter and his wife, Imelda Staunton were among the civilians present to watch the opening, an historic feast for the eyes.

jim carter downton abbey sits wife imelda staunton watch state opening parliament

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If you’re still not entirely sure what the State Opening of Parliament is, The Telegraph explains it in a short, easy-to-understand video (watch below).

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