Lord Luce tribute to Queen Elizabeth II: ‘She was a symbol of national identity, unity and pride’
What a farewell. The Queen took leave of her 14th prime minister, appointed her 15th and slipped away, all within three days. Elizabeth the Steadfast might be an appropriate description of her 70 years as Queen.
Queen Elizabeth’s famous commitment, given in South Africa on her 21st birthday, to devote her whole life to the service of British and Commonwealth people was the key to her reign. She has fulfilled that service steadily throughout her 70 years.
Queen Elizabeth brought stability and continuity during times of great change
And we, all of us in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth, have given the late Queen our support in the outpourings of respect, affection and love for her. Do we not hear the echoes of the Golden Speech of Queen Elizabeth I, proclaiming in 1601: “Though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my Crown, that I have reigned with your loves”.
Queen Elizabeth brought stability and continuity during times of great change. When she became Queen there was still wartime rationing. There were no motorways, computers, supermarkets or frozen foods. There was capital punishment and Everest had not been conquered. Former prime ministers Tony Blair, David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and our current Prime Minister, Liz Truss, had not been born.
One of the greatest changes of Elizabeth’s reign was the transformation from the British Empire to the Commonwealth, of over 50 equal nations committed to democracy and the rule of law – a unique achievement. It was the Queen, as Head of the Commonwealth, who kept the flame alive through her many visits and patent interest in and enjoyment of the peoples of the Commonwealth. Her late Majesty ensured continuity by achieving the support of all Commonwealth countries to King Charles III, succeeding her as Head of the Commonwealth. Commonwealth governments can now build on her record of personal diplomacy.
In the Queen’s role as Head of State she was a symbol of national identity, unity and pride, devoted to all parts of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. We are aware of her many duties at home, while in state visits overseas she has often acted as a conciliator, most notably in her visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011.
Queen Elizabeth also presided over almost imperceptible adaptations, from managing her finances to opening the Royal Collection, more informal walkabouts and more recently taking up virtual technology during Covid.
One of the late Queen’s greatest strengths was to ensure that the crown remained above the strains of party politics. To my recollection, she never indicated any political preference.
Her Majesty always recognised modern limitations on the powers of the monarchy whilst retaining the right to be consulted, the right to advise and the right to warn, as defined by Bagehot.
Queen Elizabeth’s strength has been her dedicated public service, understanding people of all backgrounds and concern for their wellbeing. In all this, her Majesty’s humility and humour shone through. She has loved her people at home and in the Commonwealth and we have loved her.
In all this, the Queen was fortified by her Christian faith. Defender of the Faith, she still embraced and understood the importance of all faiths and of none. Her values were straightforward, deep and timeless. Her strength in times of disappointment was clear for all to see. She was fortified in all this by her happy marriage to the late Duke of Edinburgh, always there to support and encourage.
She has now passed the baton on to King Charles III, who will follow the Queen’s supreme example of service. She stood for all that was best in us. Throughout all the changes and vicissitudes of the last 70 years, Her Majesty remained our one constant. Now we have a chance to express our gratitude and to follow her example of service to our country.
Lord Luce, crossbench peer and former Lord Chamberlain to the Queen.
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