POLITICS

The Three Utterly British Reasons Why Scheduling The Queen's Speech Has Been A Problem

You've no idea how long it takes ink to dry on calf skin.

12/06/2017 15:22 | Updated 12 June 2017

It’s a crucial event in the Parliamentary calendar - in fact, nothing can happen without it - but it looks like the Queen’s Speech is going to be delayed.

Downing Street has so far failed to confirm whether the State Opening of Parliament will take place as planned on June 19 and no alternative has yet been put forward.

There are a variety of reasons why pinning down the date has been and will be problematic for the new government  - and all of them are wonderfully British.

1. Royal Ascot 

Her Majesty’s busy schedule of public engagements means there is little wriggle room, and pushing her speech to Parliament back by just one day will cause a clash with her duties at the Royal Ascot horse race, which gets underway on Tuesday June 20. 

The five-day spectacle is one of the most prestigious events in the UK’s sporting calendar and the Queen has a key role to play.

Each day of the event begins with the Royal Procession, when the Sovereign and accompanying members of the Royal Family arrive along the racetrack in horse-drawn landaus. They then spend the day watching the races from the Royal Enclosure.

The Queen is a keen owner and breeder of many racehorses and her thoroughbreds have won Royal Ascot many times.

PA Archive/PA Images

2. Order Of The Garter Service

Buckingham Palace was already forced to cancel a major event to accommodate the originally planned Queen’s Speech on June 19.

The Order of the Garter service is held at Windsor Castle every June, when new knights take the oath and are invested with the insignia.

A formal lunch is held in the Waterloo Chamber, before the knights make their way in procession to a service in St George’s Chapel, wearing their blue velvet robes and black velvet hats with white plumes.

The Queen attends the service, along with, traditionally,The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales and The Princess Royal.

PA Archive/PA Images

3. Printing The Speech On Vellum

Yes, apparently this still happens.  The very British tradition of printing the Queen’s Speech on vellum - a rare form of calf skin - is more logistically challenging than you might expect. 

There appears to be some debate over whether calf skin or goatskin parchment is used today - but either way it takes several days for the ink to dry out, meaning the speech has to be final and cannot be amended.

The DUP, the Conservatives’ new governing partner, is currently locked in talks to approve the speech itself, so until a full agreement is reached, the ink-drying process cannot begin.

PA Archive/PA Images

 Labour has vowed to table amendments to the final speech as it looks to vote down key Tory policies including cutting the winter fuel allowance for older people, pension guarantees and grammar schools.

A party spokesman said: “Number 10’s failure to confirm the date of the Queen’s Speech shows that this government is in chaos, as it struggles to agree a backroom deal with a party with abhorrent views on LGBT and women’s rights.”

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS