The Queen, as Head of State, carries out the duty of formally opening each new session of Parliament.
But before she travels to Parliament from Buckingham Palace, certain historical ''precautions'' are observed.
The Yeomen of the Guard, the oldest of the royal bodyguards, armed with lanterns, search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster, a practice which dates back to the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605.
Another tradition sees a Government whip held ''hostage'' at the Palace to ensure the Queen's safe return.
The custom dates back to centuries when the monarch and Parliament were on less cordial terms.
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