This morning, The Queen signed the formal document that dissolved Parliament for the General Election. By tradition, the Proclamation, once signed by HM The Queen, is expected to be publicised as soon as it is received. It is delivered by hand by the Privy Council Office to the Serjeant-at-Arms at the Lord Mayor’s official residence, Mansion House. He then forms a procession to The Royal Exchange, where the Corporation of London’s Common Cryer reads out the writ to the citizens of London.
Fortunately, they don’t read the Proclamation out as soon as it arrives, but announce that it will be read out at 3pm – otherwise we could have been hanging around for several hours depending on the traffic conditions on the trip down from Windsor Castle.
It’s a nice bit of City tradition, albeit one with a formal legal framework.
I turned up about half an hour before the allotted time, not really sure if 4 people, or 400 people would turn up to watch. For some reason, I seem to have an “air of authority” and was repeatedly quizzed by passersby as to what was about to happen. I’d guess that maybe 100-150 people gathered by the steps to listen to the event, with AP News filming it for later broadcast, apparently on ITV.
Anyhow, at 3pm, the Common Cryer, the Serjeant-at-Arms at the City of London Corporation and two honour guards took up their positions on the steps of the Royal Exchange. The Serjeant-at-Arms opened a red tube containing the Proclamation and bowing, handed it to the Common Cryer.
With references to Lords Spiritual and Temporal as well as to us the loyal and loving subjects, Queen Elizabeth declared the Parliament dissolved and called a General Election so that she can continue to accept the wise council of her ministers.
Throughout the event, the loyal subjects responded with the mandatory salute of an arm outstretched holding a camera phone aloft.
After reading out the document, and a cry that the Great Parliamentarian in the Sky should save the Queen, the Proclamation was deemed to be duly proclaimed, and the document was handed back to the Serjeant-at-Arms with more bowing and off they marched back to Mansion House, where they probably put their feet up and had a glass of sherry.
That’s it over until the next election.
Sadly we were not able to get a close up look at the Proclamation document itself, which would have had the Great Seal attached to it in the Palace of Westminster on its way to the City.
Incidentally, now that the Proclamation has been read out, at 5pm today all the current MPs will cease to hold that office, and can no longer call themselves a Member of Parliament.
Although Parliament was dissolved today, it was Prorogued last Thursday, and you can watch the brief ceremony in the House of Lords, with more bowing, hat doffing and references to the Great Parliamentarian in the Sky via the UK Parliament website. Skip right to the end – to 6 hours, 20 minutes in for the start of the Prorogue Ceremony.