State Opening of Parliament

  • Grand opening

    What happens when all three parts of the UK Parliament come together? This is the story of Parliament's State Opening.

  • Opening the UK Parliament

    The Westminster Parliament is in London. It has three parts. Together, MPs in the House of Commons (top right), members of the House of Lords (bottom left) and the monarch make the country's laws. All three come together for the State Opening.

  • The Queen comes to Westminster

    MPs and Lords don't meet at the Houses of Parliament every day of the year. It falls to the Queen to open each new session of Parliament with a grand ceremony called the State Opening.

  • The State Opening: A centuries-old tradition

    The monarch has opened Parliament for centuries. The Queen still gathers together with all the members of Parliament in the House of Lords chamber, just as King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I did back in the 16th century.

  • The Queen parades through London

    The Royal Horseguards lead the Queen through the crowd-lined streets of London to the Palace of Westminster. Here's the Queen arriving at the Sovereign's Entrance for the 2009 State Opening.

  • An important speech

    The main event of the State Opening is the monarch's speech. This is the Queen reading the Queen's Speech in the House of Lords. The speech outlines many of the new laws the government plans to introduce in the coming year.

  • Who writes the Queen's Speech?

    Somewhat confusingly, it's not the Queen. It's written at Number 10 Downing Street by the prime minister. The prime minister and his top ministers decide which laws they plan to present to Parliament in the upcoming year.

  • Full house

    Representatives of both the House of Lords and the House of Commons crowd into the Lords chamber. They listen carefully to the Queen's Speech. For MPs, this is the only time they enter the House of Lords chamber.

  • Debate begins in the Commons...

    Following the Queen's Speech, MPs return to the House of Commons chamber. They immediately begin debating the government's ideas for the new parliament.

  • ...and in the House of Lords

    Debates on the content of the Queen's Speech last for several days in both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

  • Back to the palace

    As MPs and Lords begin their debating the government's plans, the monarch leaves the Houses of Parliament. Job done - until next time.

The Queen, Lords and Commons

Did you know Parliament is made up of three parts: the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the monarchy?

They all get together once a year. This is the story of the state opening of Parliament.

Related links

In pictures: Lords chamber 
Find out what happens on the red benches of the House of Lords.

State Opening explained
Read more about the State Opening and the Queen's Speech.

Parliament's art collection   
Find more paintings and artworks like those from this photo story.