State Opening of Parliament review
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I went to the State Opening of Parliament today. I had to get up well early (6:45 AM!) and I should have got a medal but it was worth it. I don't think it was as good as Trooping the Colour, though... but more about that later.
The parade was due to go past at 11 AM so I thought I'd better be there by nine at least, but I ended up in McDonalds by half-8, just to pass the time. It was drizzling with rain all day and maybe that's what kept the crowds away, but the streets were still empty at 10. You could have arrived an hour before and still got yourself a good spot. I had plenty of time, so I walked the whole thing from Buckingham Palace down The Mall, through Horse Guards and Whitehall, and all the way up to the Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately you needed a pass to get past Westminster Abbey, and the coppers stopped me going any further, so I ended up under the shadow of Big Ben in Parliament Square, right on the corner where Winston Churchill is.
You know the parade is close when the soldiers start lining the streets. I noticed this at Trooping the Colour too -- first of all you get the gun cops staring at you from behind the barrier, eyeing you up in case you look a bit shifty, and then the soldiers come along with the machine guns and swords. Their boss (sergeant?) gets out his measuring sticks to make sure they are ten paces distant (exactly) and straightens their caps and trousers too -- a real mum. And then they stand there for the next hour not moving a muscle. We had a female sergeant barking orders at them every time someone came past, six feet from our ears, voice booming like a thunderclap. Lord knows what it's like being married to her -- I wouldn't fancy her shouting at me to put the bins out.
Just before 11 o'clock you get all the limos coming past with foreign flags on. I suppose they were full of diplomats but you couldn't really see because most of them were blacked out. And after that the parade starts proper.
After my trip to Trooping the Colour last year I was expecting about 500 horses, ten thousand soldiers and about fifty thousand marching bands. But there wasn't a lot of that at all. There was only really one or two bands, 100 horses at most, and probably a couple of hundred soliders in their red tunics and bearskins. The whole parade passed us by in two or three minutes -- no joke. I didn't even really see the Queen this time because I had the camera pressed up against my face. It's only when I got home and watched the movie that I realised who I saw. The Queen was in a closed black carriage with Prince Philip, being pulled by two white horses, and that was followed by another one with four more Royals inside. But I haven't got a clue who they are, not even now, after watching the video ten times. Then came an open-top carraige with Princess Anne inside, and that was basically it. I didn't see Charles, William, Harry or Kate, but maybe I missed them. It was a very short parade.
After that the Queen disappeared into Parliament to deliver the speech, and we had to wait in the rain for 45 minutes for her to come out. I weedled my way a bit closer to Parliament in the meantime, and got a better view of them coming back. And the whole thing was over by about 12:15.
So was it worth it? Of course it was. You can't miss these London parades because they are great. But if I had to choose between Trooping the Colour and the State Opening of Parliament, then I'd pick Tropping the Colour every time.
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