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What does the Ceremony of the Keys consist of?
Image result for ceremonial key QUEEN
The ancient custom of the Ceremony of The Keys, which involves the formal locking of the gates of the Tower of London, has been carried out continuously every night, without fail, for more than 600 years since 1340.
The Sovereign’s Entrance and Norman Porch
At the base of the tower is the Sovereign’s Entrance, which is used by the Queen whenever entering the Palace. The steps leading from there to the Norman Porch are known as the Royal Staircase and are the start of the processional route taken by the Queen. By tradition, this route is the only one the Sovereign is allowed to take when he or she comes to the House of Lords. The Norman Porch is so called, because it was originally intended to house statues of the Norman kings.
Ceremony of the Keys
|Ceremony of the Keys|
|Yeoman Warder with escort, Tower of London in May 2010|
The Ceremony of the Keys is an ancient ritual, held every evening at the Tower of London, when the main gates are locked for the night. It is said to be the oldest extant military ceremony in the world, and is the best-known ceremonial tradition of the Tower.
At exactly 9.53 pm, the Chief Yeoman Warder, dressed in Tudor watchcoat and bonnet, and carrying a candle lantern, leaves the Byward Tower and falls in with the Escort to the Keys, a military escort made up of armed members of the Tower of London Guard. The Warder passes his lantern to a soldier, and marches with his escort to the outer gate. The sentries on duty salute the Queen’s Keys as they pass.
The Warder first locks the outer gate and then the gates of the Middle and Byward Towers. The Warder and escort march down Water Lane, until they reach the Bloody Tower archway where a sentry challenges the party to identify themselves:Sentry: “Halt! Who comes there?”Chief Warder: “The keys”.Sentry: “Whose keys?”Chief Warder: “Queen Elizabeth’s keys”.Sentry: “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys. All’s well”.
The Warder and escort march down to the foot of Broadwalk Steps where the main Tower Guard is drawn up to meet them. The party halts, and the officer in charge gives the command to present arms. The Chief Warder steps forward, doffs his bonnet, and proclaims:Chief Warder: “God preserve Queen Elizabeth”.Guard: “Amen!”
On the answering “Amen” the clock of the Waterloo Barracks strikes 10pm and the Last Post is sounded, marking the end of the ceremony.
The Guard is dismissed, and the Chief Warder takes the keys to the Queen’s House for safekeeping overnight.
The origins of the ceremony are unknown. It may have begun during the Middle Ages, and it is often stated that a ceremony in some form has been held since the 14th century. Written instructions that the keys should be placed in a safe place by a Tower officer, after securing the gates, date back to the 16th century. In its current form the ceremony is likely to date to the 19th century when the institution of the Yeomen Warders was reformed by the then Constable of the Tower, the Duke of Wellington.
The ceremony has never been cancelled, and has been delayed only on a single occasion due to enemy action during the Second World War.
During much of the First World War, the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) provided the Tower garrison but in 1919 after handing back the Tower Guard to the Foot Guards, the HAC’s 3rd Battalion presented a lantern to the Yeomen Warders on the 12 May 1919 as a mark of friendship during their time on duty. The lamp was used for the ceremony of the keys that night and every night ever since.
Between 40 and 50 visitors are allowed access to the ceremony each night, under escort. Tickets are £5 and must be obtained in advance from Historic Royal Palaces, the organisation that looks after the Tower. The event is usually sold out at least 12 months in advance.
Following the suspension of public visits during the Covid-19 pandemic, the ceremony was opened to the public again from 1 June 2021.
In the United Kingdom, Black Rod is principally responsible for controlling access to and maintaining order within the House of Lords and its precincts, as well as for ceremonial events within those precincts. Since early 2018, the post has been held for the first time by a woman, Sarah Clarke
The office was created in 1350 by royal letters patent, though the current title dates from 1522. The position was adopted by other members of the Commonwealth when they adopted the British Westminster system. The title is derived from the staff of office, an ebony staff topped with a golden lion, which is the main symbol of the office’s authority.
A ceremonial rod or staff is a common type of symbol indicating the authority of the office-holder. Depictions of ancient authority figures in many cultures include such a rod (alternatively called a sceptre). Another early example was the fasces (literally a bound bundle of rods) carried by guards (“lictors”) who accompanied certain high-level officials in the Roman Republic and later Empire.
Black Rod is formally appointed by the Crown based on a recruitment search performed by the Clerk of the Parliaments, who is the employer of all House of Lords officials. Prior to 2002, the office rotated among retired senior officers from the Royal Navy, the British Army and the Royal Air Force. It is now advertised openly. Black Rod is an officer of the English Order of the Garter, and is usually appointed Knight Bachelor if not already knighted. Their deputy is the Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod