Last weekend my boyfriend surprised me with a tour of the Houses of Parliament. Our tour focused on Parliament procedures and Westminster’s history. Janet, our tour guide, kept the tour light-hearted and made it simple for those, like me, who do not know anything about Parliament! There is also the option to go around on your own with headphones and an audio guide. Which I might try next time now I have basic knowledge and go round at my own pace.
The tour was one hour and thirty minutes long but the time flew by thanks to Janet’s light-hearted approach and the magnificent architecture. The tour started and ended in Westminster Hall which is the oldest part the building. There is no denying the beautiful architecture (designed by Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin) throughout but one room that particularly stood out to me was the Royal Gallery. The Royal Gallery contained portraits of the Royal family which were painted with such skill they were almost as realistic as photos. On opposite sides of the room, the Battle of Waterloo and the Battle of Trafalgar were painted on by Daniel Maclise straight on to the plaster. Again these paintings were breathtaking with so much detail to take in.
What did I learn on the Tour?
Here is a summary of what I learnt during my visit to give you a taste of the tour without spoiling it for you!
Parliament is divided into the House of Lords and the House of Commons. There are currently eight hundred Lords but only space for four hundred in the House of Lords. Though as not all of them are active this is not usually a problem. The Lords are composed of six hundred and ninety-six who were awarded their title by the Queen for outstanding work or contribution to society (these titles are called life titles as they go when the person dies and cannot be inherited). Along with ninety-two who have inherited their Lords status and finally, twenty-eight Bishops. The benches are covered in red leather with opposing parties facing opposite each other. There are benches in the middle are for those who are independent.
Both Houses have to agree on a legislation before it is made a law. So they go back and forth making amendments. If they cannot agree after a year, the House of Commons can pass the law without the House of Lords agreeing. This has only happened to about seven times in the last one-hundred years.
I’m amazed how much I learnt and look forward to going back again one day. I would recommend the tour to everyone should learn how Parliament works to highlight the importance of our vote. Especially as this years, it is one hundred years since women got the vote.
The tour reminded me how much enjoyed history at school. I plan to watch some history documentaries and read some history books. Does anyone have any history documentaries or books recommendations?
All information included is from the Tour Guide (Janet) and The Palace of Westminster Official Guide.