Queen Elizabeth Officially Opens New Session Of UK Parliament [PHOTOS, VIDEO]

 @MayaErgas
on May 08 2013 12:29 PM

Wednesday marked the official state opening of the British Parliament, replete with pomp, circumstance and very silly wigs.

U.K. Parliament opening Britain's Queen Elizabeth sits with Prince Philip as she delivers her speech in the House of Lords, during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London, May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Toby Melville Queen Elizabeth in carriage Queen Elizabeth II returns to Buckingham Palace by carriage after attending the State Opening of Parliament in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

According to the Parliament’s official website, the queen opens the main ceremonial event by proceeding from Buckingham Palace to Westminster in a royal carriage.

Queen Elizabeth arrives at Westminster with Prince Phillip Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive for the State Opening of Parliament, at the Palace of Westminster in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Dan Kitwood/Pool Queen Elizabeth entering Westminster Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip enter the House of Lords arrive for the State Opening of Parliament, at the Palace of Westminster in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Lewis Whyld/Poo

Queen Elizabeth II gave her traditional speech that opens each new parliamentary session. It is important to note that the Queen’s Speech is written by the government and expresses its views and plans, not her own.

U.K. Ministers at opening of state Judges sit in the House of Lords as they wait for the start of the State opening of Parliament, in the Palace of Westminster in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Toby Melville David Cameron and opposition leader at U.K. state opening Prime Minster David Cameron, left, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Opposition Leader Ed Miliband walk through the Members' Lobby to listen to the Queen's Speech at the State Opening of Parliament in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Oli Scarff/Pool

The State Opening ceremony dates back to the 16th century, as do most of these judges’ wigs.

Queen Elizabeth crown The Imperial State Crown is carried on a cushion through the Norman Porch of the Palace of Westminster ahead of the State Opening of Parliament, at the Palace of Westminster in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Dan Kitwood/Pool

Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Queen Elizabeth waits before delivering her speech in the House of Lords, during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Toby Melville

The official website of the royal family notes that the monarch has only missed two openings of Parliament during her 61-year reign: In 1959 when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew and in 1963 when she was pregnant with Prince Edward.

This year, for the first time in 17 years, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, attended the ceremony, accompanied by his second wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Alas, our fair lady the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, did not attend (she is pregnant, as well.)

Prince Charles and Camilla arrive at Westminster Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrive for the State Opening of Parliament, at the Palace of Westminster in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Lewis Whyld/Pool

According to the official royal website, a special detachment of the Queen’s Body Guard, along with local police, searches the cellars of Parliament prior to the ceremony. This tradition dates back to the infamous Nov. 5, 1605, Gunpowder Plot, when Guy Fawkes tried unsuccessfully to blow up Parliament and King James I.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip leave after the State Opening of Parliament, at the Palace of Westminster in London May 8, 2013.  Reuters/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool

See the Queen’s Speech from this year below.

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