Charles makes first King’s speech in 72 years amid parliamentary pomp

LONDON – King Charles III will wear a very heavy crown. A man called Black Rod slams a door in her face. A lawmaker is held “hostage” by Buckingham Palace.

It’s the Royal Opening of Parliament, the year the British monarch announces new laws on the government’s agenda, but this being Britain, there’s an elaborate ceremony steeped in ancient customs that can seem a bit confusing to the uninitiated.

It’s the first time a monarch has given a speech in more than 70 years, and the event became famous – at least for Americans – in 2010 when Colin Firth overcame a speech impediment by playing the warlord King George VI. Since 1952, she has held this role as Queen, although in 2022, due to her ill health, Charles stood in for her mother.

Prince Charles opens Parliament, but it’s still the Queen’s Speech

This is the first such incident for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak – and he hopes it won’t be his last. His Conservative Party is lagging badly in the polls, and an election must be called by January 2025.

The king’s speech is read by a king sitting on a gilded throne, but in this case, the king is merely a messenger. The speech was written entirely by the government and was a moment for the prime minister to show what the ruling party’s priorities are. With the election looming, this speech looks at how the Conservatives plan to campaign in the next election.

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So Charles, a lifelong environmentalist, could be seen announcing legislation for a new system for issuing oil and gas licences, which the government says is crucial to energy security. Environmental groups Opposition to the move said the United Kingdom should focus on renewables and that the move was an attempt to create a wedge issue with the opposition Labor Party.

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According to leaks in the British press, Charles, or rather his speech, will announce legislative reforms, including a phased smoking ban, to create a smoke-free generation; New controller for English football; Greater powers for judges to compel convicted criminals to appear in the dock for their sentencing hearings; and mandatory imprisonment for shoplifting.

The upcoming election will be one of the most talked about political discourses in recent years. Some proposals may never become laws because the Conservatives may run out of parliamentary time. That means conservatives can announce eye-catching policies that they hope will help them win over voters. Even if they never become law.

The ceremony is a collection of centuries-old customs that harkens back to a time when the relationship between the King and Parliament was much richer. Before Charles arrived at Parliament, royal bodyguards would search its cellars for explosives – a reference to Guy Fawkes’s 1605 “Gun Plot” – a failed attempt by English Catholics to overthrow the Protestant King James I and Parliament.

The best known part of the ceremony is probably when Black wireA senior officer in the House of Lords knocks on the door of the House of Commons, only to see it slammed in her face – symbolizing the independence of the House of Commons from the King.

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Ignoring the frosty reception, Black Rod, with his ceremonial staff, knocked three times on the door—a dent in the wall from years of demolition—and the door to the House of Commons chamber finally opened. Lawmakers emerge and follow Black Rod to hear the king’s speech.

In another tradition, inspired by the beheading of King Charles I in 1649, a lawmaker was held “hostage” in Buckingham Palace during the ceremony to guarantee the king’s safe return.

For his part, Charles wears an imperial state crown and a crimson velvet robe brought specifically from the Tower of London, which he wears in the robes.

After the speech, lawmakers return to the House of Commons, where the normal cut and thrust of politics resumes. Sunak and Labor leader Keir Starmer will hold a day-long debate on the legislative plan outlined in the speech, culminating in a vote.

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