‘There is a real and rising risk’ that the Palace of Westminster will be destroyed by catastrophic event before it is restored, says the Public Accounts Committee 1923

So, seven of us went on a tour of the palace this week while it is still standing! To be clear, any catastrophic event would be around health and safety issues.

We enjoyed a fascinating afternoon with a terrific tour guide. She led us through the palace, skilfully linking chambers, lobbies, halls, robing rooms and chapels. Our tour took us from the time of Edward the Confessor, through the ‘divine right of kings’, the execution of Charles I, and Cromwell’s Commonwealth, to the restoration, and what we know today as constitutional monarchy. She also talked about women’s suffrage and the very gradual increase in the numbers of women MPs.

The great hall, the oldest part of the palace, is where Elizabeth II’s body lay in state, the trial of Charles I took place and where many luminaries have spoken, including Mandela and Obama.

We stood inside the chambers of the Lords and the Commons and, like everyone, remarked at their smallness. We enjoyed working out the identities of some of the statues and the painters of the many works of art within the palace. Having seen a thousand years of history, we finished by admiring a wonderful modern window (2016) in the great hall by Mary Branson called New Dawn, which is a celebration of the vast numbers of ordinary women and men who worked and struggled for the vote, the bedrock of modern democracy.