On a crisp Friday afternoon, EF Academy Oxford students had the wonderful opportunity to visit the core of Britain’s government, known as the Houses of Parliament. The Houses of Parliament, which also goes by the name the Palace of Westminster, is arguably one of Britain’s most iconic sights. It is the place where the House of Commons and the House of Lords meet to discuss laws and debate topical issues. The House of Commons consists of MPs who were elected by the public to represent a specific region of the UK. It is also where the Prime Minister and her advisors work. By contrast, the House of Lords is made up of people who were not elected by the public but who may have inherited their title or were even handpicked by the Prime Minister.
This symbolic building is situated in the heart of London by the River Thames and next to Big Ben. It was originally built in 1016, over a thousand years ag. However that part of the building was ruined by fire in 1834, thus resulting in Westminster Hall being the oldest part of the Palace. Westminster Hall was built by William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror, in 1097-9. It is a magnificent hall that has stood proudly despite all the beatings it has taken throughout a millennium, and this is where we began our tour.
Our friendly tour guide led us through the halls and past the stunning stained glass windows to where the Queen would begin the state opening ceremony, which is held at the beginning of each parliamentary year, and where the Queen gives a speech and sets out the government’s agenda for the upcoming year. It begins with the Queen arriving at the Sovereign’s entrance, She is then escorted to the robing room, which is a beautiful room decorated with a royal blue carpet and paintings by William Dyce, portraying the chivalric virtues of hospitality, generosity, mercy, religion and courtesy. This is where the Queen will put on the Imperial State Crown and her ceremonial robes prior to making her grand entrance in the House of Lords.
We continued the tour and followed the Queen’s route to the House of Lords where we were greeted by rows and rows of red seats. Red is the main color of the House of Lords; green is the main color of the House of Commons. However, the most extraordinary sight was the gold-plated royal thrones where the Queen and her family members would sit as the Queen gave her ‘Speech from the Throne’.
Next we went to the House of Commons and as we made our way there we passed by statues to commemorate significant political figures throughout the years such as Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. This chamber was slightly more spacious and included features such as a bulletproof wall to prevent any regrettable incidents from occurring.
Unfortunately, our tour quickly concluded and we were back on our way to Westminster Hall, passing by walls and ceilings filled with fascinating symbols and portraits that signify Britain’s heritage.
Written by EF Academy Oxford, A-Level Year 1 Student, Mumtaza Chairannisa