Step inside the House of Lords

Monday 18 March 2019

Today I’m heading off for another British adventure. Julia and I have been invited to the House of Lords by The Baroness Benjamin OBE. I am so excited. I’ll get to discover more about one of the world’s most iconic buildings, its fascinating history and present day use. But what shall I wear?

Wardrobe sorted we arrive at the Palace of Westminster and are met at the entrance by Floella’s husband, Keith. After going through security, we take the stairs to the first floor and then down a corridor that’s decorated with Coats of Arms belonging to the families of Lords.

We enter the Prince’s Chamber, which was purpose-built for the Lords. The room was extensively damaged by Second World War bombing, but you would never know. It’s the  place where Lords meet to discuss business of the House. It’s a square room decorated with portraits painted on panels around the room depicting members of the Tudor dynasty. I instantly recognise Henry VIII, this is so surreal.

On the right is the Royal Gallery, one of the largest rooms in the Palace and I can see walls filled with portraits of kings and queens from King George I onwards. We then head down to the Queen’s Robing Room. As the name suggests this is where the Queen prepares for the State Opening of Parliament by donning official robes and wearing the Imperial State Crown.

We can see that some rooms have blue carpet, some red and others green. Keith explains that the Queen can only step on blue carpet, so the rooms that she usually uses are covered with it and they have to display blue carpet paths between the rooms, so she can walk across. The red carpet is for the Lords, the green carpet is used in the House of Commons.

On to the Chamber of  the House of Lords, there is a strict protocol that we have to follow. They debate new laws, festivals, regulations and Brexit of course. I struggle to understand the accents of some of them, but I’m intrigued by this government system. They have debate and normal conversations, they treat each other with respect and they even make jokes.

After 45 minutes Floella leaves the room and we follow her. She takes us to the Central Lobby which connects the House of Commons and the House of Lords, then to Westminster Hall, which is in the middle of renovations. I can’t explain how big it is and if I close my eyes, I can hear a distant orchestra playing and imagine the hall full of people in enjoying a large banquet.

Floella takes us to a chapel underground there are so many details to look at - Gargoyles, images of Noah’s ark, Moses and the disciples, it’s breathtaking.

Before we go it’s tea time, my favourite part of the day. For the first time I have scones with cream and jam...I am a fan straight away, in fact I think it’s one of the best food inventions ever made. We talk about Beauty With A Purpose and Floella’s life, she is a remarkable woman.

Her family left Trinidad & Tobago in 1960 and emigrated to England when she was seven. After a spell as a stage actress in West End musicals, she began presenting Play School for the BBC children's television programmes in 1976. She was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting in the 2001 New Year Honours.

Growing up in a family involved in activism, so it was only natural for her to start In politics. In 26 June 2010, she was appointed a Liberal Democrat life peer, The Baroness Benjamin, of Beckenham in the County of Kent. She is one of 207 women in the House of Lords. And to think, the first women weren’t admitted to the Lords until 1958!

She is such an interesting person who cares passionately about creating a better England. She became a role model to me that day.

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