The Palace of Westminster

London

We had an 8:45 departure this crisp Monday morning from the hotel. First stop The Palace of Westminster or more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament.

I have been to London many times before, and there’s much to see but I’ve never been to visit the inside of the Houses of Parliament prior to this trip. Our guides were able to secure a tour for us thanks to the courtesy of The Hon Nicholas Soames MP, grandson of Sir Winston.

Due to all the terrorists and security troubles security these days, it is naturally quite tight around the building itself. Barricades and Bobbies everywhere. Everything, however, is quite in the British tradition of being quite highly organized. We’re off the bus and through the security in no time at all thanks to our rather efficient British guide Gerry Clark. The 48 of us were broken up into smaller groups, each with a very professional guide. Our fellow had obviously been doing this for quite some time and even though he was young he had some great stories about some of the origins of the customs and traditions of the parliament.

The Houses of Parliament

The original part of this magnificent building was built in 1097 during the reign of King William II. This Great Hall is now under refurbishment and is used for the lying of state—most recently Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. The Palace itself has over one thousand rooms and in that fine British tradition also nine pubs.

Looking down the across Great Hall from the entrance is a breathtaking sight—a great site indeed. It is a vast open space with something in the order of 14 tons of English Oak making up the roof. One can actually smell the history that has taken place in this great room.

The first room on our journey beyond the entrance, when we arrived, were the apartments of State. This is the room where the monarch will enter, crown themselves, and then be robed by their loyal attendants. They then proceed to the House of Lords to open Parliament each year.

Naturally, such a grand room requires ample amounts of gold leaf. So much in fact that one artist spent a countless number years on the project. He carried out his work in such focus and determination that he finally went completely mad and was checked into a lunatic asylum.

After leaving the very grand state apartments, we proceeded, as Queen Elizabeth II has done each year since she succeeded to the throne of Great Britain in 1953, into the House of Lords. There are only 92 hereditary lords in the house these days. There were 724 until Tony Blair’s government succeeded in eliminating the majority of them. In addition to the remaining 92, there are 699 life-peers, two Archbishops, and 24 Bishops that make up the Lords.

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