Democracy and decorum

EVERY year at the State Opening of Parliament the cellars of the Palace of Westminster are subject to a ceremonial search.

The practice dates back to 1605 and the Gunpowder Plot.

With the Queen and the entire Government present in one room however, there was nothing ceremonial about the security measures around the House of Parliament.

It is a slightly surreal occasion.

The streets are closed to London’s heavy traffic, and the Queen does not even have to pay the Congestion Charge as her carriage is pulled by horses.

In the House of Lords itself, the peers of the realm are dressed in red robes.

Women, presumably minor royals sit in evening gowns wearing tiaras.

I overheard one of my female colleagues ask another

“Where do you buy a tiara?”

“You don’t buy them”

Was the reply

“you inherit them”.

In some ways the event is a harmless piece of colourful pageantry, and a reminder of our historical development from the rule of Kings to democracy.

And in the democracy in which we live the Queen’s Speech is the Government’s opportunity to tell the nation its legislative plans for the next year.

Nonetheless it’s strange to hear the Government’s words spoken by the Queen.

She spoke about extending educational opportunities, so that the country can benefit from everyone reaching their full potential.

It raised a few smiles after the clash between Prince Charles and Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, over the Prince’s alleged comments about people getting above themselves.

The Prince has actually done some good work to help young people through the Prince’s Trust.

But it was a reminder that royals should be careful about what they say.

One day he will have to sit on the Throne in the Lords and deliver a King’s Speech, possibly through gritted teeth.