Marked with pomp, queen's speech lays out British government's plans

Quirky traditions of opening parliament
Quirky traditions of opening parliament

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Story highlights

  • Queen Elizabeth II calls for banking reform and warns about Iran
  • British queen delivers a speech each year scripted by politicians for her to read
  • Her messenger, the Black Rod, summons lawmakers to her speech
  • Elizabeth is marking her Diamond Jubilee, 60 years on the throne

Queen Elizabeth II laid out the British government's plans for the coming year in a speech Wednesday marked by pomp and tradition.

In the speech scripted by politicians but read in the House of Lords by the monarch, she said her ministers would reduce the deficit, strengthen regulation of the financial sector, work to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons and promote stability in Afghanistan.

The government will also act on proposals to force banks to split their retail and investment operations, she said.

The speech lasted about 10 minutes, less time than it took her to travel by carriage from Buckingham Palace to Parliament.

In keeping with custom, her crown made the journey in a separate coach, and she donned her royal regalia in the Robing Room of the Palace of Westminster, the official name for the building where Parliament meets.

Once the queen arrives for her annual speech, her official messenger, known as the Black Rod, goes to the House of Commons to summon lawmakers to her speech.

Who is Black Rod?
Who is Black Rod?

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Who is Black Rod? 03:39

By tradition, the door is slammed in his face, and he is required to pound on the door with his rod to get the attention of members of Parliament.

The lawmakers then follow the Black Rod to the House of Lords, where the queen reads a speech written by politicians outlining their legislative priorities.

The monarch is not allowed to enter the House of Commons, where the elected members of Parliament sit, in memory of the failed effort of King Charles I to arrest lawmakers in the 17th century on the eve of the English Civil War.

Elizabeth is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this year, marking 60 years on the throne.

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