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London is a royal city and has preserved its ceremonies and traditions over hundreds of years. Some are every day and some are every year. The most traditional ceremonies and most popular attractions are the Trooping of the Colour and the Changing of the Guard.
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Before every State Opening of Parliament, the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars beneath the Palace of Westminster by the light of old candle-lanterns. This precaution has been undertaken every year since 1605, when the "Gunpowder Conspirators" attempted to blow up parliament on the day of the State Opening. See the pictures
Dating back to Medieval London, this ceremony marks the beginning of a new session of Parliament and allows the Government to announce its programme for that session. The ceremony features peers and bishops in traditional robes and a royal procession involving the State Coach.
State openings usually take place in November, or soon after a General Election.
On the day of the Opening, the Queen travels from Buckingham Palace to the Houses of Parliament in the Stage Coach (a gold carriage). Once the Queen arrives at Parliament the union flag is lowered and replaced by the royal standard.
The Queen, wearing her crown and ceremonial robes then processes through the Royal Gallery to take her place on the throne in the House of Lords, from where she send her messenger (Black Rod) to summon the MPs. When he arrives at the House of Commons, the door is slammed in his face, symbolizing the right of the Commons to freedom from interference. He must then knock three times to gain entry and deliver his summons.
The Queen sits on a throne in the House of Lords and reads the "Queen's Speech".
It is tradition for the monarch to open parliament in person, and The Queen has performed the ceremony in every year of her reign except for 1959 and 1963, when she was pregnant with princes Andrew and Edward respectively.
No King or Queen has entered the House of Commons since 1642, when Charles l stormed in with his soldiers and tried to arrest five members of Parliament who were there.
One of London’s most timeless ceremonies, dating back 700 years is the ceremony of the keys which takes place at the Tower of London.
At 21:53 each night the Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower, dressed in Tudor uniform, sets off to meet the Escort of the Key dressed in the well-known Beefeater uniform. Together they tour the various gates ceremonially locking them, on returning to the Bloody Tower archway they are challenged by a sentry.
"Who goes there?"
"The Keys." answers The Chief Warder
"Whose Keys?" the sentry demands.
"Queen Elizabeth's Keys."
"Pass Queen Elizabeth's Keys. All's well."
A trumpeter then sounds the Last Post before the keys are secured in the Queen’s House.
Outside Buckingham Palace, you can see guardsmen dressed in their bright red uniforms and bearskin hats. These guardsmen protect the Queen. Every day a new guard of thirty guardsmen marches to the palace and takes the place of the "old guard". This is known as the Changing of the Guards ceremony and it dates back to 1660. Find out more and dates/times
The monarch and the royal palaces have been guarded by the Household Troops since 1660.
Maundy Thursday is the day before Good Friday, at Easter. On that day the Queen gives Maundy money to a group of old people. This tradition is over 1,000 years old. At one time the king or queen washed the feet of poor, old people on Maundy Thursday, but that stopped in 1754.
On the River Thames there are hundred´s of swans and a lot of these beautiful white birds belong, traditionally, to the king or queen. In July, the Queen´s swan keeper sails up the River Thames, from London Bridge to Henley. He looks at all the young swans and marks the royal ones.
For more information and photographs of Swan Upping click here
This fairly new custom assures aspiring centenarians that they will receive a birthday telegram from the queen on their one-hundredth birthday.On his or her one hundreth birthday, a British person gets a telegram from the Queen.
Twice a year at Buckingham Palace, the Queen gives titles or 'honours', once in January and once in June.
Honours received include:
- C.B.E. - Companion of the British Empire O.B.E. - Order of the British Empire M.B.E. - Member of the British Empire These honours began in the nineteenth century, because then Britain had an empire.
- Knighthood - a knight has "Sir" before his name. A new knight kneels in front of the Queen. She touches first his right shoulder, then his left shoulder with a sword. Then she says "Arise, Sir...and his first name, and the knight stands.
- Peerage - a peer is a lord. Peers sit in the House of Lords, which is one part of the Houses of Parliament. The other part is the House of Commons.
- Dame/Baroness - these are two of the highest honours for a woman.
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