The State Opening of Parliament on Thursday, December 19, 2019 is the last we will see for a while.

We had a State Opening of Parliament on Monday, October 14, after the last prorogation.

Two State Openings in one year — and so close together — is a highly unusual situation.

I watched both on television. The symbols and pageantry are tremendous.

Parliament’s website states:

The Queen’s Speech sets out the government’s agenda for the next session of Parliament and outlines proposed policies and laws …

State Opening is the main ceremonial event of the parliamentary calendar, drawing a significant audience online, on television and in person.

In the days preceding the State Opening, both Houses of Parliament — the Lords as well as the Commons — swore in all members individually for this new session following the General Election of Thursday, December 12:

Once complete, the State Opening could take place.

It is the only time the three elements of British government are brought together in one place, in the Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Commons and the Lords:

Yeoman warders from the Tower of London do a symbolic inspection — centuries ago, it was a real inspection — to ensure there are no saboteurs or explosives lurking:

This recalls the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, involving a handful of rebellious Catholics, the most famous of which was Guy (Guido) Fawkes, although Robert Catesby was their leader. They attempted to blow up the House of Lords. The explosives were already there.

Today, after the inspection, each of the Yeoman Warders (‘Beefeaters’) is rewarded with half a pint of port.

Meanwhile, the Queen prepares to leave Buckingham Palace for the short ride to the Palace of Westminster. Prince Charles accompanied his mother for both State Openings this year, as Prince Philip has retired from public duties:

October’s State Opening was much more formal. The Queen wore a crown and was dressed in a full length white gown with an ermine cape:

This time, she wore a dressy coat and a hat. Her mode of transport was a Bentley rather than a carriage. The photo on the left shows her walking with Prince Charles in the Royal Gallery in the Palace of Westminster, eventually into the House of Lords to deliver her speech, written by her government:

While the Queen is preparing to give the speech, Black Rod walks from the House of Lords to the House of Commons to summon MPs to the Lords to hear the monarch. We have seen quite a lot of Sally Clarke, the first female Black Rod, this year.

This video explains Black Rod’s duties, which are more than ceremonial:

When Black Rod arrives at the House of Commons, the door is slammed in her face. This symbolises:

the Commons’ independence from the monarchy. Black Rod then strikes the door loudly three times with his ebony staff, or rod, before it is opened, and the 250 Members of the House of Commons follow him back to the Lords Chamber, to stand at the opposite end to The Queen’s Throne.

The video in the second tweet shows the route MPs take to the House of Lords, with Black Rod leading them. The first video dispels the myth that the Lords wear their ceremonial robes every time they meet:

MPs stand in the back of the House of Lords to listen to the Queen’s Speech, which the Lord Chancellor presents to her in a special silk pouch.

During the State Opening, one MP is ‘held hostage’ at Buckingham Palace. I do not know who the two MPs were this year:

Afterwards, MPs return to the Commons:

When the Queen leaves, a new parliamentary session starts and Parliament gets back to work. Members of both Houses debate the content of the speech and agree a reply, known as the ‘Address in Reply to Her Majesty’s Gracious Speech’.

Each House continues to debate the planned legislative programme for several days, looking at different subject areas. The Queen’s Speech is voted on by the Commons, but no vote is taken in the Lords.

Friday, December 20, was MPs’ last day in session before Christmas recess. Brexit was at the top of the agenda.

They approved the second reading of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal from October:

They also approved the timetable — programme motion — for the second reading:

They meet again on Tuesday, January 7, 2020:

We have much to look forward to in the New Year.