Here's why the Queen 'takes a hostage' as part of a strange royal tradition

·2-min read
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

As far as royal rules go, you wouldn't expect hostage-taking to be on the acceptable list. But, as it turns out, there's actually a very strange royal tradition where the Queen herself takes a hostage each and every year. Who'd have guessed it?

The tradition dates back hundreds of years (it first came into place in the 1600s) and is all to do with the State Opening of Parliament, which happens annually in May, and sees the Queen put on her Imperial State Crown and the Robe of State. Her Majesty then leads the Royal Procession past the 600 guests gathered in the Royal Gallery, until they reach the Chamber of the House of Lords. Finally, the Queen gives a speech which sets out the government's agenda for the next year.

While a lot of the event attracts a large TV audience, one element of the ceremony which isn't televised is the taking of the hostage. The tradition can be traced back to Charles I, who had a very difficult relationship with the government, and as such set out a rule that allowed him to take a hostage to ensure his own safety during the event.

The hostage in question is more often than not an MP, and nowadays they get to spend the afternoon being looked after by royal staff at Buckingham Palace. The rule states that, if anything were to happen to the Queen, then the hostage would be forced to suffer the same fate, which admittedly sounds rather unpleasant. Luckily, nothing has ever happened to the Queen or her hostage – unfortunately for Charles I though, he was beheaded in 1649 at the end of the Civil War.

Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

But hostage-taking isn't the only royal tradition that can be dated back to this era. Each year on 5 November the Yeomen of the Guard ceremonially searches parliament's cellars for explosives. Unlike the taking of the hostage, this tradition seems to have a little more sense to it, and is all to do with Guy Fawkes' failed gunpowder plot in 1605.

More recently, the Metropolitan Police force has dealt with bomb threats to the Royal Family that mirror Guy Fawkes' planned attack. Speaking on the ITV documentary, The Day Will and Kate Got Married, Bob Broadhurst, the Met Police Gold Commander at the time, opened up about an incident that he and his team investigated in the lead up to Kate Middleton and Prince William's wedding.

"My fear is there's some sort of 'Guy Fawkes-ean' plot going on behind closed doors to actually potentially put a bomb somewhere," Bob said, revealing the Met were on high alert throughout.

So there you have it – another weird and wonderful rule to add to your collection!

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