Household Cavalrymen, and Gunners from the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, laboured through the night to prepare their horses; sailors, soldiers and air force personnel from across the United Kingdom assembled at 3am on the Wellington Barracks parade square in Westminster ready to step off to rehearse their roles on empty roads. It’s a challenging operation to bring so many moving parts together in the middle of the night, but the benefits are that the Armed Forces can practise their complex manoeuvres freely, and with the minimum impact or disruption to the capital’s normal routine.
Carried out in Service Dress uniform in almost total darkness, and without music or ceremonial Gun fire, all that can be heard is the scrunch of boots on gravel, and orders of command. The night time rehearsal has a ghostly quality very different to that which the public and the world will witness in the ceremonial display of Monday’s procession.
On Monday the Army’s Household Division, and other elements of the Armed Forces, will line the streets and escort the Crown Jewels and Her Majesty The Queen’s procession from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords. There is no more glittering occasion in the ceremonial calendar, horses and uniforms will shine and pop with colour, and the tri service Bands will perform world class music along the entire length of the processional route. A 41 Gun Salute will be fired in Green Park when Her Majesty arrives at the Palace of Westminster, and at the Tower of London at the moment that She leaves, having delivered The Queen’s Speech.
The State Opening marks the formal start of the next parliamentary session. The primary purpose of this tradition is to set out the government's legislative agenda to both Houses of Parliament in the Queen's Speech.
This is a busy period for everyone. Many of the units taking part were involved recently in operational deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Estonia, Georgia, South Sudan, Malawi and the Falkland Islands. The Bands are always heavily committed with concerts and performances in support of defence engagement events across the globe. Troops involved are also preparing for Remembrance week in early November, in particular the National Act of Remembrance at the Cenotaph, The Lord Mayor’s Show, and the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall. But for many involved, the State Opening of Parliament is a very grand occasion and there will be a great feeling of pride in the heart of every serviceman and woman participating.