§ Mr. Speaker
I invite the House to rise and observe a minute's silence in memory of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
§ The House observed a minute's silence.11.35 am
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair)
I beg to move,That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty expressing the deep sympathies and condolences of this House on the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, whose life was given unstintingly in devoted public service to the Country and the Commonwealth; who with his late Majesty King George VI rallied the nation in the darkest days of war and who in times of peace was a unifying figure for Britain, inspiring love and affection in all she met.On Friday, the Queen Mother's coffin will be carried in a ceremonial procession to Westminster Hall, where it will lie in state until the evening of Monday 8 April. Members of the public will be able to pay their respects there prior to the funeral, which will then take place at 11.30 am on Tuesday 9 April in Westminster Abbey.
I know that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the Queen Mother who, for almost a century, was part of our lives, inspired our country, aroused its respect and affection, and for whose service and life we give our most profound thanks.
Part of the fascination with the Queen Mother was undoubtedly the sheer span of history that she encompassed, not just the great events of the 20th century—its wars, the ideologies that came and went—but its technological and scientific discoveries and its vastly changing culture. No doubt 1801 was very different from 1701, but 2001, compared with 1901, seems an historic age apart, and yet she saw and experienced it all.
The Queen Mother was born during the Boer war in an era virtually free from the motor car, a time when, she once remembered, a dairy man still often stood with his cow, selling milk near the gates of Buckingham palace. Yet at the end of her life, thousands of people sent e-mails of condolence to the royal website.
During that long life, the Titanic sailed and sank when she was 11; the first world war broke out on her 14th birthday and her first child was born in 1926, the year that television was invented; she was the last Empress of India; in 1986, she became the oldest person to bear the title of Queen in the history of the British monarchy; and, in all, she saw 20 different Prime 800 Ministers pass through Downing street. One of my best memories of her is sitting with her at Balmoral as she told me of her personal recollections not just of Churchill and Attlee but of Asquith, Lloyd George and Baldwin.
Undoubtedly this long perspective brought stability to the monarchy and to the country, but the respect that the Queen Mother received and the outpouring of affection accorded her death are not the result simply, or even principally, of her long life. She could have lived for more than 100 years and made little mark. The tributes could have been a ritual, but they were not. They were genuine and heartfelt, from young and old, all classes, all backgrounds and all walks of life. That was because of the person that she was, not the rank that she held. The Queen Mother came to embody what was best about our past and makes us most optimistic about our future.
The Queen Mother never expected to become Queen, despite, as a child, being told by a fortune teller that she would be. It was only after the abdication of King Edward VIII that her husband became King George VI. In 1936, during the abdication crisis, she wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury:I can hardly believe that we have been called to the tremendous task … the curious thing is that we are not afraid.The Queen Mother's husband had seen active service in the Navy. She had never anticipated the role of Queen. Both had led lives reasonably broad in experience and in meeting people.
The second world war was to prove that fate had chosen well for Britain. Hitler, it is said, watching a newsreel clip of Queen Elizabeth laying a poppy at a first world war memorial and noticing her poise and spirit, dubbed her the most dangerous woman in Europe—at least for him. King George and Queen Elizabeth rallied the nation magnificently during the second world war's worst hours and days. Her refusal to leave London is now legendary. A clue to why she refused can be found in what she wrote after visiting the east end:I feel quite exhausted after seeing and hearing so much sadness, sorrow, heroism and magnificent spirit. The destruction is so awful and the people so wonderful they deserve a better world.She spent nights in air raid shelters and took revolver shooting lessons in the grounds of the palace. Her spirit and the British spirit became inseparably intertwined.
The Queen Mother was a unifying figure because she personified the diversity and unity of Britain and the Commonwealth. She considered herself a Scot, and was proud of it. A descendant of Scottish royalty, she spent a lot of time from an early age at her family's estates in Scotland. She was never happier than when at her home, the Castle of Mey in Caithness, or fly fishing in Scotland's rivers. During a visit to South Africa in 1946, she met an old Boer veteran who told her bitterly:I can never forgive what the English did to my people.Not at all put out, she replied:Oh, I do so understand. We in Scotland often feel just the same.In all her work, the Queen Mother was motivated by the most powerful sense of duty and service. She believed that the royal family's duty was to serve the nation. She carried out that role with total and selfless devotion, even after she had suffered the loss of her beloved husband. 801 She was still carrying out 130 engagements a year at the age of 80, and more than 50 at the age of 100. She was involved, often as patron or president, in considerably more than 300 charities, voluntary bodies and other organisations. She served the British Legion, for example, throughout almost its whole existence over nearly 80 years.
We should remember the Queen Mother for her great sense of fun and her zest for life. Her enthusiasm and humour shone through in all that she did, whether it was handing out shamrocks to the Irish Guards on St. Patrick's day, inspecting the Chelsea pensioners or indulging her lifelong and very serious passion for horse racing. Her infectious sense of fun could charm even opponents. The veteran anti-monarchist and former Member of Parliament, Willie Hamilton, said, on her 80th birthday:I am glad to salute a remarkable old lady. Long may she live to be the pride of her family. And may God understand and forgive me if I have been ensnared and corrupted—if only briefly—by this superb old trouper.The Queen Mother not only enjoyed life to the full, but helped others to do so. Her longevity and her vitality in old age gave hope to older people everywhere. Commenting on her extraordinary vigour and gaiety—she was still dancing well into her 90s—she once said:I love life, that's my secret.As His Royal Highness Prince Charles has said, she wasthe original life enhancer—gloriously unstoppable.Today, our thoughts and prayers are with all the royal family, and especially with Her Majesty the Queen, who in the space of a few weeks has so cruelly suffered the loss of her sister and her mother. The Queen has borne that with her customary dignity, continuing to serve the nation even while she grieves.
We have seen in the many moving and memorable tributes paid to the Queen Mother the recurring themes of her love of life, her warmth and humour, her love of country and, above all, her devotion to duty. It is the belief in duty that best captures her spirit, yet it was not duty in an arid or formal sense. She enjoyed life, lived it and loved it to the full. She showed, however, how it could be lived and loved while not for one moment compromising her commitment to duty. It is that combination of high integrity and simple humanity that made her not just respected but loved. There is nothing false or complicated about the public response to her death. It is the simplest of equations: she loved her country and in turn her country loved her. For that, and for her long life of service and devotion, we earnestly give our thanks and praise.
§ Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green)
In supporting the Humble Address, all Opposition Members concur entirely with the tribute that the Prime Minister paid to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. As he said, our thoughts and prayers are with her Majesty the Queen and the royal family, particularly because in this, her golden jubilee year, Her Majesty has had to suffer the death of her sister and now her mother within a matter of weeks—a personal tragedy.
802 Fifty years ago, Sir Winston Churchill stood in the Prime Minister's place as the House gathered to mourn the death of the King. He said of the King during the last war:the fate and fortunes of the whole nation and of his realms were centred not only in his office but in his soul, that was the ordeal which he could not have endured without the strong, loving support of his devoted and untiring wife and Consort."—[Official Report, 11 February 1952; Vol. 495, c. 961]Sir Winston Churchill was more aware than anyone of the service that the Queen Mother gave our nation. All of us owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the woman who played such a vital part in defending our liberty and democracy.
We often tend to think of great figures in our history as being victorious generals, influential thinkers or inspiring national leaders. The Queen Mother's great contribution to our nation was different and special. She did not lead military campaigns, inspire through speeches or transform the nation directly, but by standing resolute in the face of danger beside her husband the King and her country, and by providing a loving family in which her children and grandchildren could grow up, she made a contribution that was no less enduring. In this, the Queen Mother shared the attitude of millions of British soldiers, public servants and private citizens whose service to future generations is given through individual lives of courage, love and devotion. When her country needed it most, she gave her inner strength and her wonderful personality. In doing so, she embodied what is good and noble about the people of our country.
As the Prince of Wales said in his moving tribute to his grandmother,She understood the British character and her heart belonged to this ancient land and its equally indomitable and humorous inhabitants.Queen Elizabeth's life embraced a century of tumultuous change, as the Prime Minister said. When she was born, the motor car was still an uncommon sight on our streets and, by the time she died, people thought nothing of flying to the other side of the world. It was a century of enormous technological advance, from communications to medicine—a century that produced penicillin and the internet, but also two world wars and the atomic bomb. It was a century in which democracy flourished, but it was also regularly threatened by regimes of monstrous depravity, such as those of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.
During that century, the Queen Mother personally also had to suffer the early loss of a much-loved brother and of a husband worn down, perhaps, by responsibilities that were unexpected. From the Queen Mother we learn that character and inner strength can be a formidable anchor during times of change and upheaval. She felt no need to trim to the prevailing winds of fad and fashion; instead she stayed true to herself. Yet she never seemed anachronistic or, less still, out of touch—our memory of her has a timeless quality.
The Queen Mother's strength was that she brought to her public duties the same enjoyment with which she practised her private enthusiasms. She rejoiced in the company of young people. She was devoted to her regiments, passionate about her sporting interests—from fishing to racing—and brought energy to all the causes with which she was associated.
803 I first heard of the death of the Queen Mother when I was fishing on a Scottish loch on Saturday. It struck me at the time that she might well have approved of such a way of spending a Saturday afternoon. My first reaction was sadness, but as I thought more it turned to gratitude, for the Queen Mother's life was long, well lived and for the benefit of many. She was, frankly, the best of us.
Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family should know that all of us in the House and in the country share their sadness, but that our sadness is balanced with pride. We are proud to have shared in the life of this deeply loved and remarkable lady.
§ Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West)
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, may I say that it is our privilege to give our support to the Humble Address moved by the Prime Minister?
Her Majesty's passing marks, without doubt, the end of a very long and, indeed, seminal chapter in our country's history. Without doubt, hers was the story of the 20th century, and what an extraordinary story it has been.
As the leader of the Conservative party rightly acknowledged, Her Majesty's passing follows, after only a few short weeks, the untimely passing of Princess Margaret. For the Queen, of course, the whole House will wish to express its profound sympathy for the loss of both her only sister and now her mother in such a short space of time. Let us not forget Princess Margaret's children who, during the same period, have lost both their mother and their grandmother. Coming as it does in jubilee year, it must be very hard indeed for that family to have to live out those setbacks in such a public way.
The Queen Mother came from an era that seems very distant for us today, yet for all of us who had the opportunity to meet and talk with her it was obvious that she belonged very much here in the present. She had a fantastic knowledge of and interest in contemporary events and people. She had the gift of being absorbed completely in whatever she was doing at any given time. Her achievements went beyond mere incredible statistical longevity. She was the key bond between the monarchy and the people of our country.
Over the weekend, my parents were reflecting on their wartime experiences: my mother's in Glasgow—your home city, Mr. Speaker—and my father's in the west highlands of Scotland. The signal sent by the King and Queen in terms of their personal commitment was vast, especially to the people of London and the other cities in the south that suffered so much during the blitz; but that message resonated every bit as much in remote places such as the north of Scotland, which would never have caught a glimpse of the monarchy at that stage of the country's development. It was psychologically very important.
I want to say a word about the special place that the Queen Mother always had in the hearts of people in Scotland. She was raised at Glamis castle. Scotland was where she really belonged: whether it was the bracing air of Balmoral, salmon fishing on the River Dee or the River Thurso, or indeed her most immediate legacy, which has been discussed, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso), who, as a trustee of the Castle of Mey, hopes to catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker—the 804 far-sighted renovation of the Castle of Mey and the way in which she has bequeathed it for future generations. That is a cause of great pride and celebration in our area.
Scots do not always give of their affection lightly. I think that the Prime Minister might agree with that in other contexts from time to time. As a people they are not over-impressed by grandeur, but all generations of Scots took the Queen Mother absolutely to their hearts, because of her warmth and because she identified so strongly with us.
We all have our Queen Mother anecdotes; one of my favourites concerns a friend of mine, the late Mark Bonham Carter. The Queen Mother used to visit Mark's house once a year for a private lunch or dinner, and he would invite friends of his from a cross-section of age groups and walks of life. On this occasion I was asked along, and it was very pleasant. There were a couple of dozen of us and the Queen Mother was holding forth on subjects ranging from agriculture to Europe, and even proportional representation—she was not very sound on that one, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.] I do not think that we want to divide the House on that issue.
The Queen Mother arrived with her private detective, slightly late, and he was shown into an adjacent room. We all sat down and ate and argued our way through a splendid lunch. At the end, when it was time for the Queen Mother to leave, someone went off to raise the private detective—and "raise" proved to be the operative word. The private detective—her protection—was sound asleep in an armchair. He looked a bit embarrassed by this discovery, and I said a word of condolence to him for having been caught out in that way. He said, "The problem is, I am exhausted; I just can't keep up with her."
On the Queen Mother's 100th birthday, a number of us had to present the loyal petitions on behalf of both Houses of Parliament at Clarence house, and she held court, in every sense of the word, in the garden; a beautiful afternoon it was, too. I got a real earbashing about the state of fishing in the north of Scotland, and what I was going to do about it. That seemed to me to be rather a tall order, to say the least.
This matriarch for the country as a whole, who will be so greatly missed, perhaps teaches all of us an important truth. We get obsessed with institutions and structures, but people really respond to people. She responded to people, she liked people, and as a result they liked her and she helped save and preserve a great institution. We wish her well.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
On 14 February 1990, Speaker Jack Weatherill had the happy idea of inviting a cross-section of 15 Members of Parliament to meet the Queen Mother in Speaker's House. The hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley), the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, and—smiling on the Front Bench—my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), will remember the occasion.
After a very nice dinner, and a beautiful speech from the Queen Mother, we were sat down, one by one, by the Speaker for three or four minutes each, next to her on that Speaker's couch that you know so well, Mr. Speaker. When my turn came, I had just sat down and she turned to me and said, "Mr. Dalyell, tell me about Scotland and Scottish devolution." I will spare the House what I said, 805 but then she added, with a twinkle in her eye and a slightly malicious smile, "Of course you know that I can't tell you what I think." She had a real and very sharp sense of humour. But, as the leader of the Liberal party said, she was profoundly concerned about Scotland.
I had the good fortune to have something to do with her, as I was a member of the council of the Scottish National Trust in the 1960s and 1970s. The Scottish National Trust never had a more active patron—in fact, no organisation had a more active patron—than the Queen Mother. It was the view of the late director, Sir Jamie Stormonth Darling, confirmed by the former deputy director, Findlay McQuarrie, that it was the Queen Mother who drove through a number of schemes with her personal interest. In schemes such as the little houses at Dunkeld and Culross, and the good work of the Crown Estate Commissioners in Fife, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows very well, at Dysart, her personal interest made all the difference.
The officials of the Scottish National Trust said, "Not only is she patron, she actually reads the minutes and asks us sharp questions about them. So I suspect that for a number of organisations she was far more than a titular head.
The right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) referred to the Castle of Mey, which ought to be her memorial because it was personal to her. I had the opportunity to go there with the Ancient Monuments Board of Historic Scotland. At the end of my visit, I asked the experts who took us around, "Who had the good taste to advise the Queen Mother on this beautiful interior?", because she had rescued a castle that was almost irredeemable. They said, "Look, no one advised her; she oversaw and did a lot of this herself." I extend all good wishes to the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (John Thurso)—one of the four trustees, with John Stobo and Lord Caithness, and the chair, Ashe Windham—in their opening for the summer of the Queen Mother's castle, because it is very different from the royal palaces: it is hers and in her taste.
I end on the matter of taste—I realise that I am on delicate ground—but having known the Queen Mother not well, but sufficiently, I just wonder whether the sister of Fergus Bowes Lyon, who, as the Leader of the Opposition said, died tragically in the first world war, would object if, after we have paid tribute and after a quarter of an hour or so, there was a discussion of the urgent situations, because I think that she would have been deeply concerned about events, for example, in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
On behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, I want to express our condolences to the Queen Mother's friends and family and offer our support for the Humble Address. When a grand old lady dies in her 102nd year, it is not a tragedy. There is sadness certainly, but it is more a time to reflect on a remarkable life. It was highly appropriate yesterday that the Queen Mother's coffin was accompanied by Pipe Major Motherwell, playing "The Dark Island"—a lament, as you will know from your own 806 experience Mr. Speaker, written not in the mists of antiquity but rather more than halfway through the Queen Mother's remarkable century.
Those hon. Members who have spoken so far have referred to the momentous events that the Queen Mother has lived through, but I prefer to offer a few recollections and reflections on that life. I very much liked the Prime Minister's story about the Queen Mother's encounter with the disgruntled Afrikaner. It has been said that the Queen Mother bore her Scottish identity with pride. That is certainly true, but what I found remarkable is that each of the four hon. Members who have spoken thus far on their personal experience with the Queen Mother emerged totally convinced that she was on their side. That indicates a remarkable political talent, not to say a certain tolerance on the Queen Mother's part.
The Queen Mother bore her Scottish identity with pride, and looking back, as I have done in the past few days, at the newspaper front pages at the time of the accession, there was an early love relationship between the Queen Mother and the Scottish people because she was greeted then as the first Scottish queen for 400 years. The Queen Mother's Scottish upbringing at Glamis probably gave her her greatest talent and gift of all, which stood her in greatest stead: not so much a common touch as an ease and facility with people.
I suspect that there is no greater challenge for anyone in public life than dealing with people in a state of bereavement, in finding that mix of compassion and humour that allows people to feel that bit better in their times of greatest extremity. Ten years ago, I witnessed how that should be done when the Queen Mother unveiled the Piper Alpha memorial in Hazelhead park in Aberdeen. It was an extraordinarily hot day, nearly 90 deg, and the Queen Mother herself was 90, yet for a matter of hours that afternoon, she behaved towards 167 bereaved families in an absolutely impeccable fashion—an example for all in public life that is much aspired to, but not always followed. I know from the recollections of others who encountered her in similar situations that that experience has been shared by us all.
I shared with the Queen Mother an interest in horse racing. Indeed, we shared that interest with the Leader of the House, although I suspect that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor myself conferred the same respectability on the sport as the Queen Mother did. Over the past few days, the mysterious collapse of the Queen Mother's horse, Devon Loch, has been written and reminisced about. It belly-flopped 50 yards from the finish line just as it was about to win the grand national in 1956. The remarkable thing about the story is not the event—unprecedented and remarkable though that was—but the Queen Mother's reaction to the defeat. First, there was a philosophical "That's racing"; secondly, a concern for the jockey, the horse and the trainer; and thirdly, and most important, full and public congratulations for the owners and connections of the winning horse. There was something irresistible in the way that the Queen Mother reacted to adversity in both large and small events. As the Queen Mother goes on her final journey next Tuesday, it is highly appropriate to wish her, as the Racing Post did yesterday, a sunny day with the going good.
§ Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)
I support the Humble Address in its expression of condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family on the death 807 of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. In expressing sympathy on behalf of my colleagues, I am conscious of the fact that I am also expressing sympathy on behalf of very many people in Northern Ireland who are drawn from right across the political spectrum and who feel a sense of loss and sadness at the death of the Queen Mother.
A number of people have spoken about the Queen Mother's character, her sense of humour and the way in which she could conduct herself to put almost anyone she met at ease. She expressed and carried herself with extraordinary grace without in any way losing a sense of her majesty or position. She had such an effect on the people of Northern Ireland from the first time that she visited it in 1924 as the Duchess of York right through until her comparatively recent visits.
One remembers the Queen Mother not so much because of her character, longevity and the events that she lived through, but more because of the contribution that she made towards this nation over time. Reference has been made to her courage and to her sense of duty Inevitably, one thinks of how she and His Majesty King George VI conducted themselves during the second world war. However, I rather suspect that, when the full story is told, we will realise that she made an even greater contribution in the mid to late 1930s. With her husband, she provided stability at a time when our society was under great stress. That active contribution then and during the war years will be seen not as her only contribution to our nation's life, but the most significant.
The Queen Mother's courage did not diminish either. I recall that the plans and details of her visit to Northern Ireland in 1983 were stolen from a press cameraman's car in Dublin a few days before the visit was to take place. However, she carried on with the visit and, to the consternation of those responsible for her security, she departed from her itinerary to mingle with the crowd. That emphasised her courage and her ready rapport with the people.
As we have all acknowledged, the Queen Mother made a tremendous contribution over a long period. Underneath it all was her sense of duty and her sense of having a job to discharge and a service to give to our nation. That will be remembered.
§ Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)
I want to say a few words as Second Church Estates Commissioner on behalf of the Church of England as the established Church, although my remarks will cover all faiths and religions.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother lived the life of a true Christian, finding her deep spirituality in the worship of God, in the stories of the Bible and in the singing of hymns. She enjoyed going to church. It was a part of her life. As the Archbishop of Canterbury has said:Christian love shone through her character … it was the great depth and simplicity of her own Christian faith that saw her through one hundred and one years.Her faith would see her through the troubled days of the abdication of Edward VIII, which saw her husband come to the throne; the dark days of the blitz and the years of the war; the anxieties of state; the tragedy of losing her husband when only half of her life had been lived; and numerous operations and health scares that have tended to be forgotten as she lived to see out the fullness of her 808 days. Her faith, her family and her sense of public duty—she was steadfast in them all. They were a joy and comfort to her.
We saw goodness and love in her life, and what that love and goodness has meant to each one of us. She might have been born in a world of privilege, but she subordinated that privilege to a sense of public duty. Her motto seemed to be the greater the privilege, the greater the public duty. She had a vision—a clear view of her world. She might have walked with kings and archbishops, but she never lost Kipling's common touch. In her love of racing, she would have seen the likes of the famous tipster Prince Monolulu on the race course and she might have read and enjoyed the racing novels of Sir Dick Francis, her ex-jockey, but she also introduced the royal walkabout with the King.
Faith, it is said, can move mountains. The Queen Mother did not need to move mountains, but she was able to show that faith can be an inspiration to us all to lead a good life, a useful life, a dedicated life. She showed that goodness, like mercy, can touch the lives of others, as she did walking around the east end in the blitz. She showed that even the memory, the recollection, the remembrance of things past, can create goodness in others and make better persons of thousands—possibly millions—who had never met or spoken to her, but who had felt her presence and been motivated by her example. The Queen Mother has left us not a footprint in the sands of time, but a monument to decency—a beacon that shall shine as a guiding light unto a perfect day.
The Church shall rejoice in her life because her faith has nourished the faith of others. Christians and others of all religions the world over can be inspired by her example in what, for many of them in different parts of the world, are troubled times. She believed in the faith that, like love, passeth all understanding. We must mourn her passing but think of her in our prayers, and think too of those she has left behind, not only members of the royal family, who clearly loved her dearly, but the people of our nation who equally loved her.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)
May I identify myself with the remarks that others have made, and express the sympathy of those whom I represent in this House and the people of Northern Ireland whom I represent here on this sad occasion?
Our words are but breath: they are like life itself—they appear for a little time and then vanish away. Our tributes today are but tiny tributaries that can never fill the great ocean of what we would like to express at a time of national sorrow and at the end of a very important historic era in this nation's history.
I remember listening to King George VI speaking on the radio when he put a stamp of immortality on some words written by Miss Harkins. The words were these:I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!' So I went forth and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And he led me towards the hills and the breaking of day".The faith of the Queen Mother could be summed up in those words. She had evidently done what was said by her husband on that occasion.
809 We might well pose a question to ourselves in the House today. What was the secret of her love, her courage, her steadfastness, her loyalty, her determination, her sparkle and her zest for living throughout her life? No doubt vast numbers of people who listened to the tributes paid on a very good BBC programme on Sunday evening will have been struck by two very important incidents, one in the days of sunrise for the Queen Mother and one in the days of sunset for her.
From the days of sunrise was the recollection of the fact that for her church confirmation the Queen Mother picked for her hymn a very well known hymn, "I'm not ashamed to own my Lord or to defend His Cause, Maintain the honour of His Word and the Glory of His Cross." In the days when sunset was coming, two trees in her castle grounds had to be felled and her staff worried what her reaction would be. However, when she came out and looked on the felled trees, she said, "I am glad now that they are gone for we now can see the mountains." She then recited the magnificent Psalm of David:I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my strength.My strength cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth".She continued until the final verse:The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.As I sat here watching the Members gather for this special sitting of the House, I asked myself what the Queen Mother would have said to us if she were here. I thought that she would probably have quoted those great lines by Browning:
In her very long life, the Queen Mother saw all.
- "Grow old along with me!
- The best is yet to be,
- The last of life, for which the first was made
- Our times are in His Hand
- Who said—A whole I planned,
- Youth shows but half; trust God
- See all. Be not afraid."
I believe that if we can learn the lessons of the Queen Mother's life, this nation can renew its strength. I salute the memory of a great Queen and a great Queen Mother. I salute the memory of a job that was well done, of a race that was well run and of a battle that was well won. John Bunyan, the author of "The Immortal Dream", said of the pilgrim:They laid the pilgrim in a large upper chamber, facing the sun rising. The name of that chamber was peace.We can say the same about the Queen Mother.
§ Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow)
I speak in this debate to represent the people of the east end who, as the whole country knows, held the Queen Mother in great affection. I shall speak not about what the Queen Mother inherited or passed on, but what the Queen Mother merited. She merited respect, and nowhere is that respect greater than in my constituency—land of the pearly kings and queens who were inspired by the sparkling monarch who picked her way through the rubble.
810 As I drove to Parliament this morning, I passed the plaque at the bottom of my road that reads:here fell the first flying bomb on London.Sixty thousand British civilians died during the war, 30,000 of them in east London. Indeed, the first early-day motion I ever tabled was on a memorial for civilians who died during that war. Earlier, the Prime Minister quoted the Queen Mother saying of the east end carnage:the destruction is so awful, and the people so wonderful, they deserve a better world.The Queen Mother inspired the east end during the blitz. One eastender recalls thatThere was still an air raid on when she walked through the rubble. I always thought the world of her. She doesn't sit back pompous-like. I remember her putting her arm around people covered in blood and grime, and consoling them. I feel she knows what our lives were like.As my neighbour Mary Isaacs said:She came down Bow road slowly, and oh what a lovely smile.As another cockney woman put it:Ain't she lovely! Oh ain't she just bloody lovely!The century the Queen Mother spanned has closed. She was the last Empress. Although the world in which she was born and in which she moved has vanished, the characteristics with which she is associated endure, and we in the east end give thanks for them.
§ Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe)
On 1 August 1979, Her Majesty the Queen Mother was installed as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, in succession to Sir Robert Menzies. As I have the honour to represent the constituency that contains two of the original cinque ports—Hythe and Romney—I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words about the enormous contribution that the Queen Mother made to our part of the realm in her capacity as Lord Warden.
The origin of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports goes back at least to the reign of King Edward the Confessor, and the office of Lord Warden is almost as ancient. The Lord Warden has many privileges: as the letters patent record, the Lord Warden is entitled, among other things, toall manner of wrecks of the sea, jetsam, flotsam and lagen goods merchandises and effects whatsoever which at any time or times … shall be cast away, wrecked or lost.I have no knowledge of the extent, if any, to which the Queen Mother claimed the right to any of those privileges during her long term of office as Lord Warden, but she certainly took her duties most seriously.
Those duties were many and various. They included the responsibility of ensuring that beached whales were given a proper burial, and that at least one tooth from each beached whale was extracted and sent to the natural history museum, so that the whale could be properly identified. The House will understand that the duty was not one that the Lord Warden was required to carry out personally, but I know that the Queen Mother always took a keen interest in the results of the researches of the natural history museum.
The Queen Mother came every year to Walmer castle, and she always took the opportunities offered by her visits to east Kent to visit schools and carry out all sorts of other responsibilities and duties. Those included the opening of 811 community halls, such as the one in Lydd in my constituency, which she opened in her 94th year. On every occasion, she lit up with her presence the whole of the gathering involved. As many of my constituents have said, she was just as much at home with children as with people of her own age.
My abiding memory of the Queen Mother is of her officiating at the unveiling of the battle of Britain memorial. That took place on the top of the cliffs at Capel on the boundary of my constituency. It was a dreadful day. The rain came down in sheets and most of us felt that the wind was hurricane force at least. We all huddled in the rather precarious protection of tents but the Queen Mother, apparently oblivious to the weather, went from one tent to another, radiating charm, making sure that she met everyone and illuminating the greyest of days with the magic of her personality. She will be much missed throughout the realm, and especially in east Kent. She will always be remembered.
§ John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)
All those who have spoken today have expressed more eloquently than I can Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's immense contribution to our national life and to the national stage. She showed courage, zest for life, a sense of duty and devotion, and, above all, gentle leadership for almost a century. She was an exemplary human being.
I should like to pay a parochial, partisan tribute to her on behalf of myself and my constituents. It is hard to put into words the affection that she felt for Caithness and that the people of Caithness felt for her. It was partly based on her obvious commitment to duties in the constituency, which were small when judged on a national scale—opening the harbourmaster's office in Scrabster or visiting Caithness Glass—but none the less greatly appreciated. It was partly based on the evident joy that she took in attending local events, such as her annual visit to the Society of Caithness Artists or the Mey games. I once witnessed her consoling a team of German motor cyclists who had been beaten in the tug of war by the motley crew of footmen and equerries from the Castle of Mey.
Above all, the fact that, once a year, she came among us in Caithness and was our very special royal engendered great affection. Her Majesty warmly reciprocated the feelings of the people of Caithness. That was partly because the Castle of Mey was the only home that she owned herself. She first saw it in 1952 when it was about to fall down. Indeed, she told me that the occupants were in one room and the sheep were in the other. She bought it, took it over and restored it over a period of three or four years. She did it all herself.
Her Majesty made many happy visits with the late Hetty Munro to the Ship's Wheel in Thurso. That antique shop no longer exists but she bought several antiques there. It may be coincidence but my family home was demolished at roughly that time. I like to imagine that I might recognise the odd piece in the Castle of Mey. She enjoyed it enormously and later added Longoe farm where she became a tremendous connoisseur of stock. She understood Aberdeen Angus cattle and north country Cheviot sheep. The societies for those breeds were immensely grateful for and encouraged by her patronage over the years. She was a keen stockman and I am told 812 that she read the agricultural pages of The Press and Journal every day to keep abreast. That practicality was typical of her and meant that in 1996. she put the castle into a trust of which I have the honour to be one of the four trustees. She has left us with a marvellous legacy, but with a challenge too. She wished the Castle of Mey to be open and available to the public, and as soon as the current building works are complete some time in July, we will be opening it to receive the public, as was her wish.
The castle was her home, She brought a warmth and friendliness to that house, which all those who ever went into it will never forget. The other part of our challenge is to meet her vision of keeping the house in good order and of retaining the feeling of warmth and friendliness in it.
Queen Elizabeth brought a special warmth and light to everyone she ever met; it was her great gift. We in Caithness will particularly miss her; I will miss her. She touched all our lives, but above all today, we thank God for her life, for her tremendous service to her country and for her great sense of humour. Whatever journey she is on, we wish her well.
§ Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East)
I should like to make a humble contribution to this Humble Address on behalf of the citizens of Dundee and my constituents.
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother was a freeman of the city of Dundee on two counts—as the Queen and Empress of India, and as the Colonel-in-Chief of the Black Watch, which is the home regiment of Dundee, Tayside, Angus and Fife. Indeed, the castle of Glamis lies across the Sidlaws in the beautiful vale of Strathmore. The valley and the whole area was connected by her affiliation and association with the regiment, which played its part in all of Britain's campaigns, especially during the first world war when she lost family, and while others in her family were closely associated with it. As Colonelin-Chief, she was well received in Dundee during her many visits in that guise.
I also pay tribute to her time as chancellor of the university of Dundee. As a graduate of the city of Dundee's university, I was proud and very aware of her prime role during her three decades as chancellor, and of the way in which she handled events at the university, presiding over graduation ceremonies and the subsequent garden parties, at which I had the opportunity to meet her.
During her long association with Dundee, she played a vital part in an organisation that is probably not well known in this Chamber: the Lord Roberts workshop. The workshop was created after the first world war to employ disabled people and disabled service men in building furniture, giving them a useful life following the suffering of the great war. The Queen Mother kept up that connection over a span of five decades and was involved in its joining the Royal National Institute for the Blind in the 1990s to create Dovetail Ltd.
One of the major events in the changing life of the city with which the Queen Mother was involved was the opening of the Tay bridge in 1965, over which she presided. The bridge made an immense difference to the centre of the city of Dundee. As a consequence, I was again able to meet her briefly when I was chair of a 813 committee to restore a bandstand in Magdalen Green. Her involvement in such matters was perhaps the mark of the woman.
In response to a letter from our committee asking her to make a donation or to become involved in the restoration of the Victorian bandstand, we received a personally written letter from her saying that she had seen the bandstand on many occasions while crossing the Tay rail bridge, was very aware of its poor state and would be happy to make a contribution and be involved in the restoration. One of her ladies-in-waiting presented a small gift for the raffle, and we received pictures by people such as one of her favourite artists, Mackintosh Patrick, helping us to raise the £100,000 needed to restore the bandstand to its Victorian grandeur.
As a sign of respect, we invited the Queen Mother during one of her visits to the area to preside over the dedication of the bandstand in 1991. It was a very wet day, and as she was not as young as she had been, we created an indoor event around the rededication of the bandstand, with a small band, flowers and children. At the end, as the Queen Mother was being moved away by her personal detective and her ladies-in-waiting, she insisted on spending time with the children who made up the band, to say a little word of thanks for their efforts on behalf of the restoration. That reflects the way in which she looked at things, the detail with which she tackled projects and her personal touch.
It was no mistake that the Queen Mother was called the Rose of Glamis. Although she came from a rural area, her smiling face was able to conquer the hearts of the rough diamonds of the east end and tame the rough spirits in Dundee. I am glad to have the opportunity to pay my respects. I know that the Lord Provost of the city of Dundee has been invited and will attend the funeral next week. I pay my respects on behalf of the citizens of Dundee to one of the longest-serving freemen on two counts.
§ Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Luke). I also have a fond memory of 1991. I went to Clarence house as chairman of the William Morris Craft Fellowship, along with a brilliant young woodcarver and some members of the committee. Our task was to present Her Majesty with a wonderful carved head of William Morris. She received it with great delight, looked at it, stroked the wood and said, "What a noble head. It reminds me of one of your colleagues in the House—Mr. Faulds." The resemblance was indeed striking.
That is just one of a number of memories that I have, but my fondest is of receiving the Queen Mother when I was warden of St. Margaret's across the road—the House of Commons church. Every year she came to the field of remembrance in November for the dedication of that field, and every year after the short service she would go round and speak to as many as she could of the assembled veterans and the bereaved, taking, as it were, a personal interest in each one. Then, when the tour was complete, she would come into St. Margaret's and sign the book. She had a great love for our church and contributed to its restoration when we had the great appeal some years ago.
814 I remember that in 1990, when the Queen Mother had turned 90, she came in and said, "I'm terribly sorry. I think I've been too long this year." She had spent about an hour and three quarters going round. She said, "You know, there are an awful lot of old people out there." That was typical of her.
The Prime Minister spoke very movingly of all that the Queen Mother did and all that she meant during the second world war. It would be appropriate for us commemorate in a tangible and proper way all that she did and all that she stood for. There is nobody in the Chamber for whom she was not a central figure in the nation's life throughout our lives. I wonder whether we ought to take the Monday nearest 11 November and make that an annual holiday, remembering the veterans and the fallen, and also remembering her. I hope that that idea will commend itself to the Prime Minister and colleagues in all parts of the House.
I hope, too, that further thought will be given to making next Tuesday a public holiday. The House will not sit, as a mark of respect. That is right and proper. Others should have a similar opportunity. We are commemorating the life of the most remarkable woman of the 20th century, who has touched all our lives, directly or indirectly, and who will never be forgotten. Her memory should not be forgotten, either.
§ Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye)
On behalf of my constituents in Hastings and Rye, I express our heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family at this time of personal loss. Families, whether royal or not, suffer the same sense of bereavement, and for those in the public eye, the hurt is no less. During last year's general election, my own dear mother, Dolly Foster, died. I appreciate, therefore, how much more difficult it is for those who must grieve in the public gaze.
I want to refer in my brief contribution, however, to the enormous affection and respect in which the Queen Mother was held by so many of my constituents. Because of the age profile of those living in Hastings and Rye, many recall her sense of duty and commitment during the war years about which many other right hon. and hon. Members have also spoken.
I recall the wonderful celebrations that we held in our town centre on the occasion of her 100th birthday. It was Tesco champagne and 1066 birthday cake, and I am pretty sure that she would have welcomed the knees-up that all our elderly folk enjoyed.
The special affection in which Her Majesty was held by so many of my constituents arose in part because of two special relationships. The first may seem trivial, but she was an honorary member of Hastings Old Town Winkle Club. Its members had presented her with a special gold winkle brooch, which she wore on her 100th birthday, to the pride and satisfaction of all we Hastingsers. "I'm a winkler too", she was heard to say as the winkle club contingent passed in the birthday parade.
The more significant connection was Her Majesty's role as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, to which the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) referred. I hope that he will not mind my saying this, but Hastings, as the senior cinque port, as well as Rye and Winchelsea, are all members of the 815 confederation. When the mayors from my constituency of Hastings and Rye, as barons of the cinque ports, attend the funeral next Tuesday of our beloved Lord Warden, it will be a further link with the Crown that goes back, it is believed, more than 1,000 years to Edward the Confessor.
Older generations remember Her Majesty setting out at 8 am each morning to visit the communities that had been bombed the night before. On that basis, Her Majesty was a worthy holder of the office of Lord Warden, a position that Winston Churchill assumed in the 1940s. The cinque ports were historically the front line in the defence of the realm, and for Her Majesty to be our Lord Warden was a great honour for us.
Our links in Hastings and Rye and in the whole of the confederation go back much further than that. It is 65 years since the barons of the cinque ports attended Her Majesty's coronation. The ritual of carrying a canopy over the king's head at the coronation was abandoned in the 19th century and the privilege granted to the barons of the cinque ports to carry it was lost, but Edward VII directed that the barons should always be invited to such celebrations and, I fear, such events as next Tuesday's.
Thus it was that our links with Her Majesty started early. It was entirely appropriate, none the less, that her inspiration in the war was why she was appointed Lord Warden. Many of her friends have said that within her sense of fun, there was a ring of steel. So it was with her association with us. In her enjoyment of her annual cinque ports picnic, there was a sterner association. We have always been the front line in a purpose to which she gave vital years of her life—the defence of our realm.
The next duties of the barons will be a sad one, but in attending the funeral service next Tuesday, they will represent the affections of the people of the cinque ports towns and their pride in their association with this woman of duty.
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)
I want to speak only briefly as the House this day records its tributes to Queen Elizabeth. To my eternal good fortune, I had the great privilege and joy of knowing Her Majesty for a little over 40 years.
I want to testify to the oneness of Her Majesty's character. Whoever people were, whatever their age, whatever they did or wherever they came from, the Queen Mother was always the same to everyone. Her completely natural personality and her sparkling wit and charm truly put all who met her at their ease.
As the Prince of Wales said two nights ago in his most moving tribute to his grandmother, she was indeed indomitable, tireless, wise and loving, with a unique natural grace and understanding of the British character. She had, as well, an infectious optimism—just as well, given her love of national hunt racing—and was one of those rare people able to span the generations.
What a life it was—born in the reign of Queen Victoria, the Queen Mother was married to the last King Emperor and was the first non-royal Queen Consort since Catherine Parr in the 16th century. She lived in two centuries and through two fearful wars, in the first of which she lost her brother, Fergus Bowes Lyon, an officer of the Black Watch, at the battle of Loos in 1915. That event marked her for the rest of her life.
816 It was the telescope of history that gave the Queen Mother such perception, wisdom and experience. She lived in the reigns of six monarchs and through a period of the most profound social, technological and economic change. Yet she never lost her bearings, fortified and sustained as she was by the discipline of her Christian faith and by her strong principles. She wrote, in the foreword to "An Anthology of Assurance", a book by Lady Elizabeth Basset, one of her ladies in waiting:We can, at one and the same time, he truly contemporary men and women and yet have our thoughts and lives rooted in truths that do not change.That was the Queen Mother.
The Queen Mother's affection, admiration and respect for the armed forces, and her robust defence of all military traditions, bound her closely to all three services, particularly to their old comrades. She caused me some testing moments when I was Minister of State for the Armed Forces when she kindly, but very firmly, let me know, in no uncertain manner, of her concern about or even disapproval of some cut or amalgamation proposed by the wicked Government.
The Queen Mother's loyalty towards and support for all her regiments, and her naval and air force affiliations, were, and will remain, of the most profound importance and encouragement to all who deeply value and cherish an historic connection of which they will for ever be extremely proud.
Queen Elizabeth loved life, but she was also a symbol, for all generations, of courage and endurance in peace and war, of truth and gentleness and constancy to duty. In Kipling's words, she did indeed walk with Kings, but yet retained the common touch. With her passing, someone very special, splendid and unique has gone out of all our lives for ever. Truly, it can be said of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother that we shall never see her like again.
Rest eternal grant her, and may light perpetual shine upon her.
§ Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)
It is a privilege to follow that personal tribute from the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames). I also compliment the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King).
When I had the privilege nearly 20 years ago of being elected to Parliament, I was already aware that the war and the blitz had been among the most life-affecting experiences in the docklands communities of London. The two people who personified the resilience of those communities, among which many families paid the ultimate price, were the King and the Queen. It was not as though there was much in common between the backgrounds of those communities and the King and Queen. Nor was it that the electors of the docklands would have naturally voted Conservative—indeed, the eminent MP for Bermondsey was a republican but was elected again and again during the 1920s and 1930s, until the second world war.
Within days of the start of the war, the King and Queen came to inspect the civil defence forces in Bermondsey. They came again the following year to support the Women's Royal Voluntary Service. The Queen came again the following year to go down into the air raid 817 shelters. On each of those occasions, she encouraged and inspired everybody, and won their respect. Whether people were monarchist or republican, they thought that she was a star: whatever political views people hold, everyone is now generous enough to say so.
After the war, the Queen Mother kept up that amazing service. She had not chosen to be born an aristocrat, she had not chosen to become the Queen and she had not chosen to be widowed so early in life, but she did choose to make of each of those opportunities a life of service. For 50 years from her widowhood, she continued that life of service.
Only a few years ago, the Queen Mother made her last visit to the docklands to see how they had been rebuilt after the war. She visited the new housing and opened a housing estate at the Surrey docks. Then, she asked to go into the pub. I think that she was the first monarch who had ever asked to go where normal people go pretty regularly. She went into the pub, had a half-pint of beer and chatted to the people. They said then that she was a star and what a power of good she had done for their community over the years.
On behalf of those communities and the people from all over the world who have come to settle in the docklands—many of whom fought on the home front or abroad—I want to say that we are very grateful for her life of service. She did a power of good to her family, a power of good to her faith, a power of good to the monarchy, a power of good to her people and a power of good to this country at home and overseas. We are very grateful and we give thanks for her very much.
§ Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)
The first time that the Queen Mother visited my constituency was in January 1923, shortly after she became engaged to the Duke of York. The last time that she left my constituency was by helicopter in February of this year on her way to the funeral of her daughter, Princess Margaret. In between, there were 79 years of countless visits and deep involvement in the local community.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) knows only too well, the Queen Mother was very proud to become the first female to receive the freedom of the borough of Lynn in 1954. At the time, she said:I can assure you that nothing pleases me so much as the knowledge that you think of me as a neighbour. When the King first brought me to Norfolk I fell in love with the place and its people and this love has only grown over the years. There is a very big part of my heart in Norfolk"—quite something from a Scots lass.
That love manifested itself through the patronage of numerous organisations. The King's Lynn festival and the Sandringham flower show featured very much as a focus for her annual summer visits. When she came to the constituency over Christmas and new year, she was involved with the local women's institutes and schools. She even instituted her own personal awards for pupils at local secondary schools for academic excellence and she invited them every year to Sandringham to talk about their careers and ambitions for the future.
818 All of that was interspersed with many other official visits and, whenever there was a natural disaster locally, such as the floods in 1953, the Queen Mother was on hand to give comfort to people. Her knowledge of west Norfolk and its people was awesome, as I discovered shortly after being elected. The King's Lynn custom house, its great historic building, was threatened with closure and had an uncertain future, and I was summoned—it was hardly a summons, as I was contacted by her private secretary, who said, "If you can get away from the Whips, Her Majesty would be delighted if you would come and join her for dinner." The Whips would not believe that for a start and I could not believe it either, as she made it look as though I was doing her a favour by going to talk to her about the custom house. She told me to "rattle some cages"—what a great turn of phrase that was—and to use my position as Member of Parliament quietly to get a few things done. So, I received advice early on as an MP from a very wise person and the King's Lynn custom house was saved. Then, the Queen Mother wrote a letter to the local paper to thank everyone locally for being involved in the campaign.
Shortly afterwards, the Queen Mother took a great interest in the local railway line. She was always very concerned about it and had used it many times in the past. She wanted to be kept informed about the campaign to electrify the line. She let it be known that she would like to attend the opening of the King's Lynn electrification. I thought, hang on, something has gone wrong. Queens do not come to openings, they do not turn up in a taxi to watch some junior Minister unveil a plaque—they actually do the opening; but that was her modesty. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, any Minister wanting to come to an opening? They want to do the opening themselves.
The Queen Mother came to that opening and met five or six grades of British Rail management. Obviously she was charming to them, but I could tell that she wanted to get on and meet real people. She then met the drivers, conductors and local station staff and spent a long time talking to them and she really made their day. She probably gave them the best day of their careers. She was indeed a life enhancer and had the ability to make the people she met feel fantastic.
The Queen Mother's hospitality and generosity was limitless. She never said no to a request for a prize or present for a raffle for local charity in west Norfolk. That kindness touched the lives of thousands of people. I have a personal debt of gratitude to her, as on several occasions she invited my wife and me to stay with her.
As long as the Queen Mother lived, a bright light shone on my constituency. It was a light based on the best human qualities, those encapsulated by her: compassion, sympathy and concern for others. Now that light has been extinguished my constituency will be the poorer, but I will go to the service on Tuesday to represent my constituency and to give thanks for a remarkable life.
§ Mr. Michael Trend (Windsor)
For 70 years, the Queen Mother made a family home at Windsor. Affection, gratitude and respect for her life of service are keenly felt in and around our town—as are sorrow and loss at her death at Royal Lodge.
That was clear when I took my two youngest children up to the castle gates on Saturday evening. Already, people from the town and visitors from throughout the 819 country and the world were gathering. They were drawn together to share their sense of shock. It was quiet and dignified. However much one may anticipate death, it always comes as a great blow. Windsor was no more prepared for that than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. The people outside the castle—scene of so many memories in the life of the Queen Mother and where she will be laid to rest—were, in their private ways, trying to come to terms with their sadness.
Over the Easter weekend the crowds grew. Windsor is accustomed to large numbers of visitors on bank holiday weekends, but those gathering at the castle were not drawn by mere curiosity. I was hugely impressed by the reaction of my 11-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. They and the other young people shared the same emotions as the older generations.
I was struck by the remarks of the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the sheer span of the Queen Mother's life. She was a hugely familiar figure to us all. She had become a symbol of continuity in our society, and continuity brings with it a sense of security, which we all—old and young people alike—need in our lives.
In Windsor, we are very aware of the royal family. I think that we try hard to live together in a neighbourly way, letting them get on with their lives as human beings, but the deep affection that local people hold for the royal family should be no surprise. That feeling is warmly reciprocated.
Over many years, the Queen Mother undertook countless visits and appearances in the royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. Many of our shops now have photographs of her in their windows. During the past few days I have met dozens of local people who have particular memories of her. Many speak of a sense of personal loss.
I should also like to tell the House of the special place held by the Queen Mother in the hearts of those who live within the Great Park, especially in the Village with its York Club. Many hon. Members know Cumberland Lodge, whose foundation and development owed so much to her vision and commitment. She would frequently greet its guests from all parts of the country and the Commonwealth at Sunday services in the Chapel of All Saints—the chapel where she lay after her death.
The Queen Mother made a home for her family at Royal Lodge. We have all read or heard accounts of the happy informal atmosphere of that house, but most people know the Queen Mother best from the times when she was out in the world—on parade, as it were. She knew that people would turn out dressed in their finest and be on their best behaviour to meet her, and she always did the same. On state occasions and Garter day she showed star qualities. At Royal Ascot and at the Windsor race course, she clearly joined in the fun. She showed a lively interest in and real concern for the many voluntary groups and public organisations in Windsor.
The royal borough, although in mourning, is therefore giving grateful thanks for the interest and affection that Queen Elizabeth had for us. Tributes more eloquent than mine will be paid to the Queen Mother, but today, with humility, I speak for my constituents in expressing our love, our respect and our deep sympathy for the Queen and her family.
820 1 pm
§ Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)
I rise to support the Humble Address, given the strong contacts between my constituency and Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and her long association with it since her honeymoon as Duchess of York in Birkhall, part of the royal estate of Balmoral. The association spans much of her life and many of her summers. When she was not at the Castle of Mey she would move south to Birkhall and join the rest of the royal family in Deeside. In the north-east of Scotland, we almost take it for granted that the royal family are part of the fabric of our society, and as a result their time at Balmoral is free of intrusion. It is a chance for them to get away from the glare of publicity and enjoy a true family life.
The Queen Mother in particular will be much missed. It was welcome news when it was announced today that shops and businesses that had received warrants as a result of her patronage over the years could keep them for the next five years to maintain her connection with the community.
The Queen Mother's last official public engagement in Scotland was to another part of my constituency. In Alford, which has a long association with the Aberdeen Angus breed, the Queen Mother—who, as has been said, was a keen breeder of Aberdeen Angus cattle—joined her grandson at the unveiling of a statue to mark that connection. It was a time when the rural community was under much stress as a result of foot and mouth disease, and she spent over 40 minutes on her feet, mingling with several hundred people, making it something of a joyous occasion and bringing some light into a very dark year in the farming and rural communities.
A few days later, the Queen Mother's last public appearance in Scotland was at the Craithie Opportunity Holidays site, opposite Balmoral, where holiday homes are being built for people with mobility difficulties. She quipped that she hoped to return this year and enjoy one of the homes. Obviously she will not be able to do so in person, but I am sure that she will in spirit.
Her Majesty made a great contribution to the century. We can pay one of the most lasting tributes to her, and in a way keep her alive, by acknowledging that she symbolises for us, in the public policy sphere and as individuals, the fact that no one is ever too old to make a public contribution. If we can remember that, no matter what age someone is, they are an individual who has something still to contribute, and if individuals can remember that, whatever age they are, they have something to contribute, she will have left a lasting legacy for us all.
§ Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton)
In supporting the Humble Address, I share the solemnity that has fallen on the House. As I listened to all the tributes, however, I found that the vitality of Her Majesty the Queen Mother came through. The twinkle in her eye came through in every anecdote.
My own experience with the Queen Mother came during two different aspects of my life. First, as a governor for a while of Research into Ageing, a charity that tried to extend the quality of active life, I once remarked that if we could bottle up the elixir of life represented by Queen Elizabeth we would have solved 821 some of our research problems. I never did have the courage to ask her what it might have been in the bottle that she carried with her, but she served the charity—and so many of the other charities with which she was involved—in a remarkable way.
However, my principal reason for intervening in this debate on the Humble Address is that I am the Member of Parliament for Sandown Park—or, at least, I think that the Queen Mother thought that I was, given the number of times that we met there. Sandown Park, in her own words, was her favourite race course, and Sandown Park really loved the Queen Mother. When she moved from the president's box to award the trophy to the winning jockey and owners, she always made time to speak to everyone and regularly received spontaneous applause. Quite often, the Leader of the House, who may not have had as many winners at Sandown Park as the Queen Mother, although I am sure that he tipped as many, joined in that applause. She was spontaneously popular with everyone, from all walks of life, who attended Sandown Park. It was the race course on which she had 79 winners over the years. She won the Whitbread gold cup with Special Cargo in 1984 and another big race two years later. There was a special relationship between the two, but she could be quite a hard taskmaster.
On one occasion, we were lunching at a Whitbread gold cup meeting. Anyone who knows Sandown Park will know that the wind whips across from the reservoirs into the stands, and it can be very cold, even though the meeting takes place on the last weekend in April. On that occasion I had enjoyed a hearty lunch and the first race was about to start. I was told that I would have the honour of sitting first with the Queen Mother out in the open, so I started to reach for my very heavy overcoat when the lady-in-waiting looked at me with one of those looks that ladies-in-waiting give when someone is about to do something that is not right. I noticed that the Queen Mother was dressed in a summer frock and was on her way out. We sat through that race and every jockey, every horse and every bit of history was recounted with an absolutely crisp memory and precision. I must have increasingly sounded as though I was dumb, not just because I did not have as much knowledge of racing as the Queen Mother, but because I was absolutely frozen to the marrow. She showed no signs of that at all. I do not know whether that was because of the Castle of Mey or the other Scottish houses that she inhabited. However, standing up to go back inside was quite an effort on my part, but it seemed to have no effect on the Queen Mother.
The Queen Mother's character was such that no one was immobile or too worried to do things when she was present. She sparked a vitality into the company that she kept; that was very much part of her own character, which she shared with others. Those at Sandown Park will long remember her. There is a wonderful equestrian statue of Special Cargo at Sandown Park—the Queen Mother's spirit will always be beside it.
§ Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
There can be no greater or more fitting tribute to the brilliant life of Her Majesty the Queen Mother than we have heard in the House today. In adding my support for the Humble Address, I speak not just for myself and my constituents, 822 but proudly as the United Kingdom member of the executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, on behalf of its chairman, the right hon. Pius Msekwa, the secretariat and all our members throughout the Commonwealth's 172 Parliaments and legislatures.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association would like to express its most profound sympathies on the death of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. She did not just belong to this country, but was loved and respected throughout the entire Commonwealth, where she travelled extensively. She represented the finest traditions of the monarchy and was noted for her extraordinary warmth and affection by peoples of all nations. She is especially remembered by Commonwealth parliamentarians for her official opening of the 30th parliamentary conference, held in 1984 on the Isle of Man. The warmth with which she greeted members of the association made a lasting impression on all who attended, and she brought to the conference an air of grace, majesty and gentleness that was an inspiration to the parliamentarians who came to the Isle of Man and all the Manx people who lined the route to see her. The association was honoured by her presence and is deeply saddened by her passing.
The Queen Mother is, in death as she was in life, an abiding symbol of all that is good in our world. Her unselfish devotion to duty and country, the depth of her love for her family and her unfailing sense of humour are her legacy to us all.
It is hard to find words that are truly fitting, but Milton wrote many of his beautiful poems in my constituency, so it is to his words that I turn to pay my tribute. They come not as hon. Members may imagine from "Paradise Lost", but from "Arcades"—a verse of which she could so easily have been the subject. He wrote:
Throughout the Commonwealth. we mourn the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, but her radiance will never be forgotten.
- Mark what radiant state she spreds,
- In circle round her shining throne,
- Shooting her beams like silver threads,
- This, this is she alone,
- Sitting like a Goddess bright,
- In the center of her light.
§ David Burnside (South Antrim)
In supporting the Humble Address, I wish to recall a day in 1985 that I will never forget. It was always easy to remember the Queen Mother's age, so Sir John King, the then chairman of British Airways, wondered in late 1984 what could be done for her 85th birthday. A message was sent to Clarence house to ask her what she would like for her birthday and the reply came back that she would like to fly on Concorde, because she wanted a bit of excitement.
A flight on Concorde was arranged and the Queen Mother came to Heathrow dressed in her normal pastel shades. She was wearing, I think, light blue, four-inch heels—I am told that they cannot go much higher—and a large hat. She sat in seat 1A, and she had been asked whether she had any special requirements for the flight. A copy of the Sporting Life was ordered, and not for a casual read on the flight but to make contact with the ground so that she could invest in the horse racing business. She did that from the flight deck.
823 The Queen Mother had a very fine lunch, and was invited to the flight deck. Concorde is very small, with a three-man flight deck for the captain, first officer and engineer and with a little jump seat behind the captain. She sat on the jump seat still wearing her hat, which was about half the width of the flight deck, and we flew over the Irish sea. The route had been worked out with the Queen Mother, and we flew over the Castle of Mey. That is what she wanted for her 85th birthday.
The 100-seater aircraft was filled with representatives of civic and business life from all round the United Kingdom and it flew back south to Heathrow. The Queen Mother had been briefed beforehand on who was who so that they could be introduced to her. As a director of the company, I lucky enough to be sitting in about row 8 and Sir John King introduced me as David Burnside, the director of public affairs. She said, "From Northern Ireland. I pray for Northern Ireland every night." I have never said that publicly before but the House and the people of Northern Ireland would appreciate knowing what she said. We have lost a great lady.
§ Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley)
I wish to say a few words as the Member for a constituency that had no specific connection with the Queen Mother. However, she was just as well loved and respected there as in those constituencies that had a more direct connection with her.
My constituency is in Lancashire, and the Queen Mother was the mother of the present Duke of Lancaster and the wife of the previous Duke of Lancaster, her much-loved husband King George VI. My first memory of the Queen Mother is of the time that I saw her when all the schools in Burnley went to see the King and the Queen, as she then was, when they visited the town at the end of the second world war. The royal family played a great part in the war and certainly boosted the morale of the country. Indeed, the present Queen, as Princess Elizabeth, gave a special speech on the radio to the children of the nation, and every child at school received a certificate at the end of the war from the King.
It was the simple things that made the Queen Mother much respected and loved. I recall her visit to Manchester in the late 1960s or early 1970s when she attended a banquet. I was in a group of about a dozen people when I was introduced to her and each person in that group thought that she was speaking to them alone and to no one else. She had the knack of being able to speak in that way.
One man was introduced to the Queen Mother and she told him that she had met him before. He said yes, but just as he was about to tell her where and when, she said, "Don't tell me." She carried on chatting to him for three or four minutes, and then suddenly said, "Did I meet you in Manchester during the blitz?" He said, "Yes, you spoke to me when I was helping to clear up Manchester cathedral after it had been bombed the night before. I was in the ARP." She had that knack of remembering people. I have an appalling memory for names and people, but she remembered many years later that she had spoken to that man.
The Queen Mother also made a most simple gesture at that banquet. It was attended by 500 people, a large number of whom were not especially pro-monarchy—indeed, some were clearly republican. We had the toasts 824 and the function was drawing to a conclusion when she suddenly and unexpectedly pushed back her chair and proposed a toast to the city and people of Manchester. That hall of 500 people was electric at that moment, with everyone standing and cheering. Such simple gestures, so warmly and genuinely meant, made her the most respected and loved of all the royal family. We pay tribute to her. She will be a sad loss to the nation.
§ Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet)
In supporting the Humble Address, I hope that I speak on behalf of many when I express my thanks for the work that the Queen Mother did for so many charities. I could not go through a litany of them all, but it is a source of great astonishment for those of us associated with any of them that she managed, in her busy and committed life, to become so personally involved in so many organisations to which she gave a great deal.
Much has been made of the Queen Mother's commitment to children. When she visited the Royal School for Deaf Children in Margate, she quickly put her young hosts at ease when others, more shamefully, found it difficult to communicate with them. She immediately struck a chord with them all.
The Queen Mother was patron of the Children's Country Holidays fund and took a passionate interest in the work that that little organisation does to provide holidays for the underprivileged children of east London. In this, the final year of her life, she allowed her name to be given to a rose bred specially for her called "Queen's London Child". When hon. Members on both sides of the House visit the Chelsea flower show this year, they will see that rose twinkling in the sun as a living memorial to someone whom the children of the east end of London believe to be a very great lady. They will miss her dreadfully.
§ Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West)
Lest it is thought to be an individual quirk of the Father of the House or a one-sided comment, and although we cannot debate other things today, the House and the people of this country expect the usual channels to arrange a debate at the earliest possible opportunity on the matters to which he delicately referred.
We cannot list all the 300 organisations with which the Queen Mother was associated, but she was supported in all of them by her personal and household staff. In particular, I want to mention Sir Martin Gilliat, her devoted supporter for many decades.
I saw the Queen Mother in military, civilian and voluntary service. People do not fully understand or articulate how thousands of ordinary people doing ordinary things use the inspiration of someone in her position—whether as patron, colonel or a supporter of an organisation—to achieve extraordinary results.
It is not just about what she alone did for the east end, but about the inspiration that she gave to people to put up with hardship or to do that extra bit for those around them.
The best tribute that we can give is to ask whether we can do more of what she did and what she inspired others to do.
825 1.18 pm
§ Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire)
Like many hon. Members and our constituents, I did not have the privilege of meeting the Queen Mother. Many of our colleagues have contributed to this debate on the Humble Address. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) made a most moving speech on how he knew her for more than 40 years. Yet to me, all hon. Members and all my constituents, the Queen Mother was a very special lady: she was, indeed, the nation's favourite granny. One of her unique gifts was to take the love, the support and the delight that she so clearly took and gave to her own family to everyone that she met and came across. If we, as we go about our business, can just follow her example in some small way and make everyone we meet feel as special as she did, and if we can continue those small acts of kindness that she performed for all those she knew, we will have served her memory well.
§ Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley)
I rise to support the Humble Address, and on behalf of my constituents I should like to extend my sincere sympathy to Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family.
March 2002 will long be remembered by my constituents as a month of mixed emotions. Early in March, the honour of city status was conferred on the borough of Lisburn by Her Majesty the Queen, in this her golden jubilee year. We celebrated the new city of Lisburn, especially in light of our close association with the royal family, with the village of Hillsborough being the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen and having played host, on many occasions, to Her Majesty the Queen Mother. We remember those visits with affection.
As my friends and colleagues have said, those visits came at times when the people of Northern Ireland were facing great uncertainty and adversity, with the shadow of violence hanging over our part of the United Kingdom. When the Queen Mother and other members of the royal family came to visit Northern Ireland, we took hope from their interest and the time that they spent among us, and not least among the royal family was the Queen Mother who gave her time and showed her affection for Northern Ireland.
As my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) said, we were inspired by the Queen Mother's Christian faith and by the fact that she prayed for the people of Northern Ireland. We very much appreciate that, and we appreciate the contribution that she made to the life of Northern Ireland and to the life of our nation. We will greatly mourn her passing. It is at times like this that we are reminded of the contribution that the royal family make to the life of our nation. It is a contribution that many of us in Northern Ireland deeply appreciate, and we will miss the Queen Mother. She was a very special lady, and she meant much to my constituents.
§ Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh)
I cannot hope to match the eloquence of a number of those who have already contributed. Nevertheless, as a recently elected Member of the House, I should like to pay a brief tribute to Her Majesty the Queen Mother. She served as the 826 Colonel-in-Chief of a number of regiments in the Army, including the University of London officer training corps and the Royal Anglian Regiment, in both of which I had the privilege to serve. All the people who served in those regiments, and indeed in all the armed forces, including those who served in two world wars and who still survive, will greatly mourn her passing.
I met the Queen Mother only once when she paid a formal visit to the London OTC several years ago. As a young second lieutenant I was deputed to have the honour of introducing her to some of the cadets in the regiment. I freely admit that when I came to this place I was slightly nervous on the day of my maiden speech, but that was as nothing to the butterflies that I experienced when the Queen Mother visited the London OTC. I pay tribute to her great skill, which others have mentioned, of putting people at ease. When she met me she immediately put me at my ease and made it very simple for me to perform my duty. On a personal level, I will always be thankful to her for that.
I conclude with a very gentle story. Some hon. Members may have heard this before, so I crave their indulgence. Several years ago, when she was in her 90s, the Queen Mother was asked by a journalist, "Your Majesty, you have travelled the world, you have met so many people and done so many wonderful things. Is there anything at all to which you still aspire?" She is reputed to have replied, "Yes—I would very much like to receive a telegram from my daughter." Of course, she did receive that telegram, and we are all very grateful that she did.
I think that Her Royal Highness the Queen Mother was something of an institution in her own right. We are all the poorer for her passing, and as a House and as a nation we will miss her tremendously.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I rise to make a brief contribution to what has been a most amazing and moving sitting of the House.
Yesterday afternoon, I attended a reception at the town hall in Macclesfield where I met the under-18 schoolboys who are to play for England against the under-18 schoolboys of Wales. In fact, I should be there to watch the match, which will start in a few moments' time, but I felt it appropriate to be here. I am pleased to be in the Chamber to share the occasion with Members of Parliament of all political parties. During that visit to Macclesfield town hall, the mayor, the leader of the council and I signed the book of condolence. It was a moving occasion not because we signed the book of condolence, but because of the many dozens of people, young and old, who were there to do the same thing, and the simple messages that they entered in the book.
The Queen Mother has held a special place in the life of our country. She loved its people. She loved this country. She fought for this country—metaphorically speaking—during the war, when she refused to leave London. As we all know, she said, "I cannot leave without the children. I cannot leave without my husband the King, and he will not leave." Her indomitable spirit shone forth then and continued to do so until last Saturday. Her life was full to the brim with service, duty and love, of family, and of her country. She will pass to her place of perpetual peace and rest on a wave of love and affection which will be remembered for ever.
827 1.27 pm
§ Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire)
I have listened with growing awe to the wonderful tributes that have been paid today. Because of them, I cannot understand why the Queen Mother's funeral is not to be designated a state occasion. She was arguably the greatest female British citizen of the 20th century, and I hope that those who are responsible for such decisions will reconsider the status of her funeral.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Resolved, nemine contradicente,
§ That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty expressing the deep sympathies and condolences of this House on the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, whose life was given unstintingly in devoted public service to the Country and the Commonwealth; who with his late Majesty King George VI rallied 828 the nation in the darkest days of war and who in times of peace was a unifying figure for Britain, inspiring love and affection in all she met.