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Thursday, October 15, 1998 Published at 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK


UK Politics

Queen stomps on circumstance

The Queen's procession enters the Lords

The Queen is keeping her promise to move with the times by toning down the pageantry surrounding the State Opening of Parliament.


Political correspondent Nicholas Jones: "The Queen wants to simplify the pageantry"
Fourteen ancient office holders, including the three heads of the armed services, are being axed from the procession.

From now on the services will only be represented by Sir Charles Guthrie, Chief of the Defence Staff.

As well as cutting down on pomp the new ceremony will be much shorter.


[ image: Black Rod summons the Commons to hear the Queen's Speech]
Black Rod summons the Commons to hear the Queen's Speech
Instead of waiting for the Queen to take her seat in the House of Lords, Black Rod will set about his business of summoning MPs from the Commons to the Lords to hear the Queen's Speech before her procession ends.

A speedier ceremony

This innovation is designed to cut down on the time the Queen spends waiting for the MPs to arrive in the Lords.

The Queen usually finds herself waiting some minutes, as the commoners deliberately dawdle on the trip between the two houses, reluctant as they are to acknowledge that the Lords is, traditionally at least, the senior chamber.

Leading historian and Conservative peer Lord Blake welcomed the proposals saying: "From my own experience I know the Queen has to wait what seems like an awful long time for the MPs to arrive."

He added: "I think it is an excellent idea and sensible. I understand the initiative has come from the Queen and I think it should be accepted."


[ image: Jeremy Corbyn argues for abolition]
Jeremy Corbyn argues for abolition
But for some the proposals do not go far enough. Radical Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn responded to the changes saying: "The state opening of Parliament with all its pageantry merely underlines the undemocratic nature of our society, with an hereditary monarch and an hereditary House of Lords.

"I think we should take this opportunity not to slim down the Queen's Speech but to abolish both."

Back to the future

The forward looking move, described by Buckingham Palace as a "common sense adjustment to the ceremony," hopes to see the Queen's Speech keep up with modern trends.

But the great officers of state, including the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Earl Marshall, who lead the procession ahead of the Queen, will still walk backwards so as to remain facing the monarch to avoid showing any disrespect.

The palace offered the procession leaders the choice of walking forwards but they declined.

But the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, however has elected to walk forwards, not out of lack of respect but out of a fear of causing accidents.

Several officers, including the Crown Equerry and Silver Stick in Waiting, are being axed from the ceremony and the number of Ladies in Waiting present is also being reduced.

Changes are also being made to the role of the heralds in the procession.


[ image: The heralds enter the chamber ahead of the Queen]
The heralds enter the chamber ahead of the Queen
Instead of moving ahead of the Queen's train the heralds, including Bluemantle Pursuivant and Maltravers Herald Extraordinary, will arrive earlier and have, in effect, a procession of their own.

The changes to the ceremony, being worked out by the Earl Marshal, the Duke of Norfolk, will be announced in full in the coming weeks.

The next Queen's Speech is expected to take place in mid or late November.



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15 Oct 98|R-S
State Opening of Parliament - Royal Procession

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