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What does the prorogation ceremony actually look like?
What does the prorogation ceremony actually look like?
Image: House of Commons

What happens during a prorogation ceremony?

The UK parliament is set to be suspended, but not before a formal ceremony.
Sep 9th 2019, 5:44 PM 19,102 15

PROROGATION IS HAPPENING. After weeks of protest, criticism and legal action, Boris Johnson will today close parliament for several weeks. 

But what actually happens during a prorogation ceremony?

The British parliament loves a piece of arcane procedure and prorogation is no different. The whole thing starts with a statement read to the House of Lords on behalf of the Queen by the Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Evans of Bowes Park: 

My Lords, it not being convenient for Her Majesty personally to be present here this day, she has been pleased to cause a Commission under the Great Seal to be prepared for proroguing this present Parliament.

Remember, while we’ve all been talking about Boris Johnson’s prorogation plans, under the British Constitution it is the Queen who formally approved the suspension parliament.

Five peers and Privy Councillors  – acting as a Royal Commission – will instruct Black Rod to summon the House of Commons. 

new-black-rod Look out for Sarah Clarke, or Black Rod, later today. Source: Victoria Jones/PA Archive/PA Images

When the Commons does arrive, the Royal Commission and representatives of the House of Commons – namely the Speaker, the Clerk and the Serjeant at Arms – will greet each other. 

The Reading Clerk will then read out the official command of the Queen from a piece of parchment, while the Clerk of the Crown follows by announcing the name of each law to be passed. 

‘La Reyne le veult’ 

According to the British parliament website, we should be listening out for the following Norman French phrase during the proceedings. It means “the Queen wishes it” and basically signifies royal assent for each bill. 

Source: UK Parliament/YouTube

Video not working? Click here

After this, the Leader of the House reads a speech from the Queen – written by the government – reviewing the achievements of the government. 

This ceremony officially closes parliament. 

The parliament website also states: 

After prorogation, and especially on the dissolution of Parliament before a general election Members shake the hand of the Speaker on leaving the Chamber.

With this prorogation being particularly unusual and controversial, it might be worth watching whether MPs are lining up to shake hands with John Bercow, who announced today that he’d be stepping down as Speaker. 

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Once parliament is prorogued,  it won’t sit again until the middle of October – very close to the current deadline of the UK leaving the EU. 

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Dominic McGrath


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