For more than 500 years, the State Opening of Parliament has been a symbolic reminder of three mainstays of the British political system, bringing together the head of state and representatives from both of the houses of the UK parliament, the Lords and Commons.
Taking place every year as a mark of the start of a new parliamentary calendar, it is a true spectacle to behold and an experience that visitors to the English capital will undoubtedly cherish from their time in the city.
An overview of the State Opening of Parliament
The ceremony is a grand affair and takes place at the House of Lords each year. It sees the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh travel by coach from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster, where the head of state gives a royal address to the assembled houses of parliament.
Once the Queen’s speech has been delivered, she retires once more to Buckingham Palace, leaving her elected representatives to debate the content of her address and to begin the process of putting the government’s aims into action.
The whole affair is filled with pomp and circumstance, with the ceremony steeped in history and a firm part of British culture.
Origins of the State Opening of Parliament
Beginning as a practical necessity in the late 14th century, the ceremony has grown over the years to the elaborate and ornate affair that it is today.
However, back when it first began, the State Opening of Parliament was a means for the King or Queen to address their peers and assembled members of parliament. It served as a way for the monarch to deliver their thoughts and opinions on affairs of state over the last year and to decree their expected future direction of the nation over the coming 12 months.
Today, the monarch plays a similar function, but the power of the monarchy to actively pursue political policy has been greatly diminished. That said, members of both of the Houses of Parliament do still hold the Queen in high regard and actively aim to pursue her goals when possible.
Since her accession to the throne in 1952, Queen Elizabeth II has carried out every State Opening of Parliament, except in 1959 and 1963. In those years, she was pregnant with princes Andrew and Edward, with the Queen’s elected representative presenting her speech in her stead.
Visitor information for the State Opening of Parliament
Visitors can watch the official ceremony live via parliament’s official Video and Audio pages online. It is also broadcast live on television and radio. Once complete, members of the public will be allowed to enter the Palace of Westminster as normal.
This year’s State Opening of Parliament is scheduled to take place in May.
Nearby parking and travel options
For anyone planning a visit to the Opening of Parliament this year, organising travel arrangements to this busy part of central London can sometimes be troublesome. However, here we offer a few top tips for travellers.
Drivers heading into this busy part of the city are well catered for in terms of available parking, with nearby facilities such as:
- Q-Park Westminster (0.2 miles, four minutes’ travel time on foot)
- Abington Street car Park (0.1 miles, two minutes)
- Q-Park Victoria (0.5 miles, 11 minutes)
- Rochester Row Car Park (0.6 miles, 11 minutes)
- Waterloo C Car Park (0.7 miles, 15 minutes)
- APCOA Waterloo Station Car Park (0.8 miles, 16 minutes)
- Leake Court Car Park (0.6 miles, 13 minutes)
Motorists planning journeys in the area are reminded that traffic volumes can be high throughout the day, especially during the busy morning and evening rush hours. It is therefore advisable to avoid taking to the roads at these times.
For all those hoping to forego the stresses of driving, there are other, more relaxed forms of mass transit in London, with the Underground being among them. Nearby Tube stations for visitors to the Palace of Westminster include:
- Westminster (Circle, District and Jubilee lines)
- St James’s Park (Circle and District lines)
- Waterloo (Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern and Waterloo & City lines)
- Embankment (Bakerloo, Circle, District and Northern lines)
- Lambeth North (Bakerloo line)
- Charing Cross Underground (Bakerloo and Northern lines)
Meanwhile, visitors can make use of several nearby overground rail services, with stations in the area including Waterloo, London Waterloo East and Charing Cross.
Travellers hoping to make use of public transport travel to the Palace of Westminster can also utilise bus services which operate around the clock, and the area is particularly well served when it comes to taxis.
For full details of all public transport and travel options to this busy part of the English capital, visitors should head to the official website of Transport for London. Here they can find everything they need to know about station opening times, service timetables and receive updates on any potential disruptions