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Theresa May Describes "Tremendous Privilege" Of Meeting "Immensely Knowledgeable" Queen

Theresa May Describes 'Tremendous Privilege' Of Meeting 'Immensely Knowledgeable' Queen

Theresa May with the Queen in 2018. (Alamy)

6 min read

Former prime minister Theresa May has joined MPs from across the political spectrum to share tributes to Queen Elizabeth II who has died aged 96.

May, who had weekly audiences with the monarch during her time in No 10, this morning described the Queen as a “very acute judge of people” who was "immensely knowledgeable”, and spoke of the "tremendous privilege" she had in regularly meeting with the Queen. 

“Officially, it's called an audience, but it was a conversation – and it was a conversation with somebody who was immensely knowledgeable, who did her red boxes, who read her papers, who knew what was going on, who'd had that tremendous experience over the years of her reign,” she told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme. 

“And I always say it was that one meeting a prime minister went into when I knew that nothing that was said was going to be briefed to the press or leaked afterwards.”

May expressed an affection for the Queen, who she suggested had a warmth that eclipsed her status. "There was often that twinkle in the eye, and that magnificent smile that would break out and that calmed so many people's nerves and made so many people feel at ease,” May said. 

"I think one of the immense strengths and remarkable aspects of Queen Elizabeth the Second was, she had an incredible understanding of her people," she continued. 

"People think of the monarch as this sort of slightly high and mighty person who's who's divorced from from the people, but because of the way in which she involved herself in understanding what was going on in the country, in looking at letters.

"I think what was critical was she had that deep understanding of the people and she recognised some of the issues that people were having to deal with, as they were going through this, this changing world around them."

Upon the news of her majesty’s death all normal business in Parliament has been cancelled for the next 10 days, but both the Lords and the Commons will meet at midday to allow MPs and peers to make their tributes to her in the chamber.

Both Houses will sit from midday to around 10pm, and then reconvene tomorrow for a rare Saturday sitting to allow for more politicians to have their say. A small number of senior MPs will take the oath to the King.

The last business to be taken will be consideration of a formal humble address to the new King expressing the deep sympathy of Parliament during this period of mourning.

Many MPs from across the political spectrum have already begun sharing their personal tributes to the Queen. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the sad passing of the Queen “will be felt by every member of her Armed Forces”.

“Her Majesty was more than their Commander in Chief, she was their guardian," he wrote.

“She dedicated her life to serving her Nation. The motto of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst is ‘Serve to Lead’. The Queen’s lifetime was a living embodiment of that.”

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, said the Queen was "the outstanding public servant of our time".

"An incredible life lived in service to the British people and the Commonwealth. God Save the King,” he said in a statement.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Nadhim Zahawi, who is the main point of contact between palace representatives and the government, said the Queen was "a beacon of light in every corner of the globe".

"Her Majesty's passing saddens me more than I can say," Zahawi said in a statement.

"Mine and my family's prayers are with her family as she is reunited with her strength and stay, the Duke of Edinburgh.

"Her sense of duty, warmth and obvious kindness made Britain home to me and so many others.

"In this darkest of moments, I take comfort in knowing Her Majesty will always be with us as long as we uphold the values she exemplified."

Former transport secretary Grant Shapps tweeted: “We have been fortunate to witness something no other Britons in history have known – our monarch on the throne for a remarkable 70 years.”

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who met with the monarch on a number of occasions during his time as leader of the opposition, also shared a warm tribute. 

"My thoughts are with the Queen's family as they come to terms with their personal loss, as well as those here and around the world who will mourn her death," he wrote. 

"I enjoyed discussing our families, gardens and jam-making with her. May she rest in peace.”

Labour MP Jess Phillips said she had shown “service to the very end” and that “the Queen was our constant".

Sir Nicholas Soames, the former Conservative MP and grandson of Winston Churchill, said he feels "desperate sadness" at the Queen's death.

He told Times Radio: "All, most of us, our generation, we have grown up with the Queen as our head of state.

"And as the sort of absolute guarantor, in my view, of our stability – through hard times, through bad times, through thick and thin, the Queen was always there, wonderfully reassuring, calm, I think, sage figure, fortified and sustained, obviously by a profound faith.”

Soames said his grandfather "loved" the Queen. "That is the only word to use. It's the only word that can begin to cover his feelings for this young sovereign," he continued. 

"I think the Queen found him a great comfort. I think she must have been slightly alarmed to start with, but on the other hand, she'd known him since she was a little girl.

"We've only lived in the shadow of one monarch. Churchill served six of the kings and queens of Britain. He was commissioned into the British Army in the reign of Queen Victoria and he died in the reign of Queen Elizabeth."

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