The State Opening of Parliament
As the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, the start of each new parliamentary session is marked by an official State Opening of Parliament by the Queen. This usually happens in the Autumn. Visitors to the Tower on that day will find ‘in use’ signs in place of two maces and the Sword of State (1678) used in the procession, and the Imperial State Crown (1937) which the Queen wears. The Queen’s Speech, drawn up by the government, announces proposed areas for legislation in the new parliament.
The Lily Font (1840), made for the baptism of Queen Victoria’s first child, Princess Victoria, is used today for royal baptisms. Although baptism is a religious ceremony, royal baptisms do not necessarily take place in a church or chapel. Prince William, like other princes and princesses before him, was baptised in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
On the Thursday before Easter, the Queen distributes specially minted coins to a group of men and women during a special church service. The bags of coins are carried into the church on large altar dishes which are on display at the Tower during the rest of the year.
The word ‘maundy’ comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ meaning commandment. The service remembers the Last Supper when Christ washed the feet of his disciples and gave a new commandment, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ Since the earliest days of the church, Christian leaders have served the poor on Maundy Thursday in remembrance of Christ.