What is the King’s Speech?

Everything you need to know about the State Opening of Parliament

The King’s Speech is a speech written by the government and delivered by the Monarch at the State Opening of Parliament.  

It marks the beginning of a new parliamentary year, or session, and is an opportunity for the government to set out its legislative agenda for the coming months. 

In the speech, the government will typically set out bills which it intends to introduce to Parliament in the session ahead, as well as other policy priorities which do not require legislation.  

The State Opening of Parliament, on 7 November 2023, was King Charles’ first as Monarch.

When is the State Opening of Parliament?

The State Opening of Parliament takes place on the first day of a new parliamentary session. 

Each parliamentary session begins with the State Opening of Parliament and runs for around 12 months.  

Sessions are not a specified length, but there are normally five sessions in each Parliament. This means there are typically five sessions between each general election. A new parliamentary session will begin after every general election.  

When a parliamentary session comes to an end the House is prorogued, which means the parliamentary year has formally ended until the next State Opening of Parliament.  

King Charles and Queen Camilla attend the State Opening of Parliament.

What happens during the State Opening of Parliament?

The State Opening of Parliament begins with the Monarch’s procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster. 

The Monarch arrives at the Sovereign’s Entrance to Parliament and subsequently leads the Royal Procession to the chamber of the House of Lords. 

A senior officer in the House of Lords known as Black Rod will then summon members of the House of Commons into the Lord’s Chamber to listen to the speech. 

Before entering the Commons chamber, the door is shut in Black Rod’s face and the official will strike the door three times before it is opened. This practice dates back to the Civil War and symbolises the Commons’ independence from the monarchy. 

When the Monarch leaves the chamber, a new parliamentary session begins.  

Members of both the House of Commons and House of Lords will then debate the content of the speech for a number of days before the speech is voted on. 

Did you know?

Traditions around the Monarch’s speech and the State Opening of Parliament can be traced back to the 16th century.

Before the Monarch arrives, the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster for explosives to commemorate Guy Fawkes’s gunpowder plot of 1605.

The custom of Black Rod banging on the door of the Commons dates back to 1642, when Charles I tried to arrest five MPs, and symbolises the right of the Commons to exclude royal messengers.

Queen Elizabeth II presided over the State Opening of Parliament in person 67 times during her reign. 

The Imperial State Crown has 2,868 diamonds, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, 269 pearls, and 4 rubies.