In England and Wales (and I suppose the rest of the UK), the legal year starts on October 1st. Here are the term dates for 2003-2004:
Michaelmas 1 October 2003 – 19 December 2003
Hilary 12 January 2004 – 7 April 2004
Easter 20 April 2004 – 28 May 2004
Trinity 8 June 2004 – 30 July 2004
Between the terms there are court vacations (yes, the same term the Americans use for ‘holiday’).
The start of the legal year is marked by the Lord Chancellor’s breakfast. The judges used to walk 2 miles from Temple Bar to Westminster Abbey, but now they go by car. There is a 45-minute religious service at 11.30. The following ‘breakfast’ is so called because they used to fast beforehand. The judges have always dressed up in full rig. Many of them have ceremonial dress as well as everyday dress; for instance, full-bottomed wigs (Allongeperücken) are only worn on occasions like this). I have always wanted to stand at the pavement with my camera on this occasion. A BBC news report gives some impression of the usual get-up and the plain morning dress chosen by Lord Falconer this year, with photos of Lord Falconer and Lord Irvine on this occasion.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
bq. The lord chancellor is one of Britain’s most elaborately costumed officials, but Falconer’s predecessor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, also sometimes dispensed with some of the job’s more antiquated trappings.
He appealed successfully to be allowed to wear ordinary trousers, rather than tights and breeches, in Parliament. And he ended the tradition of walking backward before the monarch at the state opening of Parliament.