Yesterday's State Opening of Parliament was the first of the reign of King Charles III
The armed forces played a major role in the pomp and ceremony that is part of the State Opening of Parliament, which took place on 7 November 2023. In all, close to 1,400 members of the Armed Forces were involved.
The number of tri-service personnel taking part was approximately 1,364, made up of 83 Officers and 1,281 Other Ranks. On parade there were 124 horses in the procession from the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment.
In addition, King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery undertook a 41-gun salute in Green Park with 88 horses and 6 Guns. It was the first full ceremony for the State Opening of Parliament conducted since 2019 (pre-COVID).
This involved troops from all three services lining the route, Guards of Honour, and a procession with a State Coach and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment providing a Sovereign’s Escort.
In contrast with the ‘dressed down’ version seen in 2022 where there were no armed forces lining the parade route and the Counsellors of State travelled by car to Parliament and were not escorted by mounted troops.
The State Opening of Parliament is one of the most colourful events in the London Ceremonial calendar.
All elements of the British Army’s Household Division, and other elements of the Armed Forces, line the streets, perform music and fanfares, and escort Their Majesties The King and Queen’s carriage procession from Buckingham Palace to the House of Lords to mark the formal start of the next parliamentary session.
The primary purpose of this ancient tradition is to set out the government's legislative agenda to both Houses of Parliament in The King's Speech.
Personnel taking part were from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force.
The Army units included the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, Honourable Artillery Company, 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, F Company Scots Guards, Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards.
Providing musical support were be the Band of the Grenadier Guards, Band of the Scots Guards, Band of the Irish Guards, Band of the Welsh Guards, the British Army Band Tidworth, RAF Band and the Royal Marine Band.
Guard of Honour
1st Battalion Welsh Guards provided a large Guard of Honour at Queen’s Gardens, with The King’s Colour, lead by the Captain of the Guard, Major Andrew Campbell, and accompanied by the Band of the Welsh Guards.
Lining the route of the procession were servicemen from the Foot Guards Public Duties Companies, detachments of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
The Sovereign’s Escort
Their Majesties The King and Queen were escorted by The Sovereign’s Escort, comprising of Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, with their mounted Troopers resplendent in plumed silver helmets and cloaks, and Cavalry black horses groomed to a mirror shine.
The Field Officer for The Sovereign’s Escort was Major William Charlesworth (The Blues and Royals), former Aide de Camp to the Commander Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, Lt Gen Sir Edward Smyth-Osbourne KCVO CBE in 2020.
The General Officer Commanding London District, Major General James Bowder, commanded Service personnel from all three services on parade. The Field Officer in Brigade Waiting was Colonel Guy Stone, the Army’s HQ London District Chief of Staff.
Horse Guards Road and Horse Guards Parade, were lined by the Royal Air Force. Whitehall, Parliament Street and St. Margaret Street were lined by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy supported by the Band of His Majesty’s Royal Marines at Derby Gate
Guard of Honour
F Company Scots Guards provided a Guard of Honour at the House of Lords commanded by a fifth generation Scots Guards officer, Major James Drummond Moray and accompanied by the Band of the Scots Guards.
As the Crown Regalia and the Sovereign’s carriage passes the Guard of Honour, The State Colour, the ceremonial flag of the Scots Guards, was dipped to the ground in salute.
Houses of Parliament
Their Majesties The King and Queen arrived at the House of Lords at 11:15am. Whereupon, as The King reached the Sovereign's Entrance of The House of Lords and proceeded to the Robing Room, a 41-gun salute was fired by The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park. A 41-gun Salute (not 62) was fired by the Honourable Artillery Company at The Tower of London.
Wearing the Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State, His Majesty lead the Royal Procession through the Royal Gallery, packed with 600 guests, to the chamber of the House of Lords. The House of Lords’ official known as 'Black Rod'' was then sent to summon the Commons.
As she approached the doors to the Commons chamber were shut in her face: a practice dating back to the Civil War, symbolising the Commons' independence from the Monarchy. Black Rod struck the door three times before it was opened.
Members of the House of Commons then followed Black Rod and the Commons Speaker to the Lords’ chamber, standing at the opposite end to the Throne, known as the Bar of the House, to listen to The King’s Speech. The King's Speech was delivered by The King from the throne in the House of Lords
Return of the King and Queen
The King then returned to Buckingham Palace from the House of Lords by the same Processional Route. Once The King and Queen left The House of Lords, a new parliamentary session started. The King's Speech is voted on by the Commons, but no vote is taken in the Lords.
Past and Future Duties
The State Opening fell in an exceptionally busy period for London’s military personnel. Many of the units taking part in the event were involved in the Coronation of Their Majesties in May, with the Welsh Guards Trooping Their Colour for the King’s first Official Birthday Parade in June.
More recently they have been involved in Korea70 Commemorations, have provided essential combat training to Ukrainian forces in the UK, as well as taking part in numerous overseas operational exercises and deployments working closely with our allied nations.
They are all preparing for events taking place across the UK for Remembrance week, the Lord Mayor’s Show in the City of London, the National Act of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on 12 November, and the UK state visit of the South Korean President beginning on 21 November.
The weeks of daily rehearsals and additional horse and kit preparation has kept our ceremonial forces busier than ever.
But it has been an event to look forward to, as for several on parade it was their first or last chance to take part in what is regarded as one of the most significant events in the London Ceremonial calendar.
Despite the Autumn chill, the sun was out and there was a great, warm feeling of pride in the heart of every serviceman and woman participating.