|British Parliament/ Westminster Palace (free photo from the web)|
Parliament is housed in Westminster Palace, the first palace on this site having been built in the 11th century, and was, up until the 16th century when large parts were destroyed by fire, the main residence of the ruling monarch. It has been the centre of parliament since the 13th century and is why you will often hear the British parliament referred to as "Westminster".
The tours, which last 90 minutes and are available only when parliament is in recess, take visitors through 11 key rooms. As luck would have it I was in London at the right time. It required forward planning on the part of my thoughtful son, however, as tickets sell out pretty quickly. Photography is not permitted in all but a couple of rooms so I have used here some copyright free photographs courtesy British Houses of Parliament. Click on the photos to see them in more detail.
Here is a brief outline of some of the rooms we saw on the tour:
|The Royal Robing Room (HP photo)|
|The Royal Gallery (HP photo)|
THE ROYAL GALLERY After donning ceremonial robes the monarch then processes through this exquisite royal gallery to the House of Lords. Once again large paintings
adorn the walls, including a depiction of Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar and many portraits of royalty.
THE PEERS LOBBY has a clubby, library type atmosphere and is where the peers meet for informal discussions and to send and receive messages.
CENTRAL LOBBY 18 metres across and 23 metres to the centre of the vaulted ceiling, is the dividing point between the House of Lords and the House of Commons. If doors to both were open it would be possible to see both the royal throne in the Lords and the speakers chair in the Commons. This is the place often seen on television where reporters interview politicians.
MEMBERS LOBBY Similar to the Peers Lobby but plainer it contains busts and statues of former Prime Ministers and message boards for the MPs. It was fun to search the message board for familiar names.
|The House of Lords (HP photo)|
stained glass windows above. At the end of the chamber is an ornate gold canopy above a spectacular gold throne. The monarch is seated on this throne for the state opening of parliament. Tiny loud speakers are inserted in the back of the scarlet benches to assist, according to our guide, the elderly, hard of hearing Lords who may be quietly dozing through a debate.
|House of Commons (HP photo)|
Those are some, but not all, of the rooms we visited. I loved this tour, revelled in the fascinating history of the place, enjoyed the commentary and anecdotes from our articulate guide and was more than a little overwhelmed by the historical events that had taken place within those walls.
I would highly recommend this as one of the best things to do in London...just make sure you plan well ahead. Special thanks to my son...you are a gem!