The art of maintaining a Lordly straight face

Before MPs can be sworn in, they first have to elect a Speaker and then the appointment of the Speaker has to be approved by the Queen.  This requires some considerable amount of ritual and the wearing of robes by five senior members of the House of Lords who act as Lords Commissioner on behalf of Her Majesty.

The Speaker was elected yesterday, but the Approbation took place this afternoon.  You can watch it here – the best bits are 9 minutes in.  But don’t miss the earlier stress on the word “immediate” when the decaration is made:

“Let the Commons know that the Lords Commissioners desire their immediate attendance in this House.”

And while the Lord Strathclyde, the new Leader of the House, just about manages to keep a straight face while he intones that Her Majesty is “fully sensible” of John Bercow’s “zeal in the public service” and his “ample sufficiency to exercise the arduous duties”, sitting next to him Lord McNally, his coalition partner and Leader of the LibDems fails to contain himself, especially when John Bercow is assured that Her Majesty “will ever place the most favourable construction” upon his words and actions.

The full ritual was as follows:

3.00 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield.

Speaker of the House of Commons

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, I beg to acquaint the House that a Commission has been issued under Her Majesty’s Great Seal to several Lords therein named authorising the said Lords to declare in the name and on behalf of Her Majesty Her Majesty’s Approbation of the choice of the Commons of Mr John Bercow to be their Speaker.

Then, the Lords Commissioners (the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde), the Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman), Lord McNally, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon and Baroness D’Souza) being robed and seated in front of the Throne, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster directed Black Rod as follows:

Lord Strathclyde: Let the Commons know that the Lords Commissioners desire their immediate attendance in this House.

Then, the Commons being at the Bar, Mr Speaker-Elect (Mr John Bercow), addressing the Royal Commissioners, said:

Mr Speaker-Elect (Mr John Bercow): My Lords, I have to acquaint your Lordships that, in obedience to the Royal Command, Her Majesty’s faithful Commons have, in the exercise of their undoubted rights and privileges, proceeded to the election of a Speaker, and that their choice has fallen upon myself. I therefore present myself to your Lordships’ Bar and submit myself with all humility to Her Majesty’s gracious Approbation.

Lord Strathclyde: Mr John Bercow, we are commanded to assure you that Her Majesty is so fully sensible of your zeal in the public service, and of your ample sufficiency to execute the arduous duties which her faithful Commons have selected you to discharge, that Her Majesty does most readily approve and confirm you as their Speaker.

Mr Speaker: My Lords, I submit myself with all humility and gratitude to Her Majesty’s gracious Commands. It is now my duty, in the name of and on behalf of the Commons of the United Kingdom, to lay claim, by humble petition to Her Majesty, to all their ancient and undoubted rights and privileges, especially to freedom of speech in debate, to freedom from arrest, and to free access to Her Majesty whenever occasion shall arise, and that the most favourable construction shall be put upon all their proceedings. With regard to myself, I pray that, if in the discharge of my duties I shall inadvertently fall into any error, it may be imputed to myself alone, and not to Her Majesty’s most faithful Commons.

Lord Strathclyde: Mr Speaker, we have it further in Command to inform you that Her Majesty does most readily confirm all the rights and privileges which have ever been granted to or conferred upon the Commons by Her Majesty or any of her Royal predecessors. With respect to yourself, Sir, though Her Majesty is sensible that you stand in no need of such assurance, Her Majesty will ever place the most favourable construction upon your words and actions.

Mr Speaker and the Commons then retired.

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