4 DECEMBER 2008 The full regal splendour of the British monarchy was on display this week as the Queen presided over the State opening of Parliament in a spectacular ceremony dating back to 1536.
After making her way from Buckingham Palace escorted by the Household Cavalry the monarch donned parliamentary robes and the glittering Imperial State Crown required by tradition.
The occasion was marked by arcane customs such as a ceremonial search of the Palace of Westminster by the Yeomen of the Guard before the Royal Address, a statement prepared for her by the government in which she declares the parliamentary session open.
The Queen's speech was delivered from the grand throne of the House of Lords; the reigning sovereign is never allowed into the House of Commons.
While the royal dazzled in her historical regalia, the prime minister's wife Sarah Brown caused comment by turning to the high street for her outfit. The stylish beret that finished off her smart charcoal suit cost the recession-busting price of £7.
And the downturn was one of the key themes of the address. The Queen told MPs and peers that ministers' "overriding priority" in the new parliamentary session would be "to ensure the stability of the British economy through the global economic downturn".
"My Government is committed to helping families and businesses through difficult times," she told the assembly.