The State Opening Of Parliament | Sharon Henry
Today, Wednesday 9 September 2015, Queen Elizabeth II surpasses the record set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, of 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes as a reigning British Monarch. That’s over 63 years on the throne. Wow!
It makes now a good time to tell the story of when we saw the Queen for the first time.
Let’s back up a bit to May this year. The annual State Opening of Parliament ceremony in London was about to take place. We had arrived an hour early via Green Park tube station and split up to get different angles of the procession which would travel from Buckingham Palace to Westminster. Darrin took the Mall and I wormed my way closer to the Palace.
Jostling in a crowd, battling for elbow room is not my idea of fun but this was exceptional circumstances and I was determined to stand my ground. Just metres away the Queen of England would be passing in her fairytale carriage and my mission was to get a good picture.
Tight Security On The Mall
A sculptured Queen Victoria looked down from her marble monument, helping the armed police keep the swelling crowd under surveillance. Red coated bearskin cap guards lined the iconic red asphalt of the Mall with very sharp looking bayonets fixed to their rifles. But all of this didn’t feel threatening, instead it added to the pomp and ceremony of the event. Police were even acting as information officers for tourists.
Handfuls of official photographers with long telephoto lens were smugly positioned around the Queen Victoria Memorial, which was off limits to the public. The Royal Standard hung motionless atop the Palace. Despite a slight chill in the air it was a gloriously sunny day.
Finding a second row spot behind the railing on the Green Park side I waited along with pushy groups of foreign school children and hundreds of tourists, hopeful I’d be able to duck and dodge the camera lens around them.
The Day We Saw The Queen, Longest Reigning British Monarch
Of course, once the procession started it became a free for all. Elbows, heads and camera phones got in the way, but it was fun seeing the excitement the British Monarch generated in people of all ages, races and nationalities.
Darrin luckily caught an excellent shot half way up the Mall of the Queen and Prince Philip being pulled along in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach to Westminster.
The ceremony marked the formal opening of Parliament where the Queen gives a speech (written by government) setting out government’s agenda for the coming year. It’s one of the few occasions she gets to wear the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State.
Fun Facts About The State Opening Of Parliament
The ceremony is steeped in centuries old tradition. Dating back to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 the cellars of Westminster are searched ahead of the Queen’s visit. Another custom sees a hostage swap; a Government whip kept at the Palace for the Queen, to ensure her safe return. This custom dates back centuries when the monarch and Parliament were on less cordial terms.
This is the stuff tourists absolutely love, which draws millions to London each year. Including us; Darrin and I were thrilled that we both caught our first glimpse of Her Majesty.
With today’s milestone reached the Queen becomes a record breaker at 89 years old. Her eldest son Prince Charles is also a record holder; aged 66 he is Britain’s longest serving heir.
Update: 8 September, 2022
The UK’s longest serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, died today (8/9/22) aged 96, at her Scottish estate, Balmoral, having reigned for 70 years. At age 73, her son has succeeded the throne, becoming King Charles III.
The Royal Family made a short official announcement:
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”