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Mark Drakeford tribute to Queen Elizabeth II: 'Duty and self-sacrifice'

Queen Elizabeth II with Princess Anne and Prince Charles (Credit: Keystone Press/Alamy)

3 min read

In our hearts, we knew this time would eventually come, but in the end it came quickly and unexpectedly.

Just a couple of short months ago, we were celebrating the unique achievement of a Platinum Jubilee.  

I join the many who have paid tribute to the Queen’s sense of endurance in the face of difficulty; of continuity in the face of a changing world and duty, and in the face of personal sacrifice. 

In July, on behalf of the Senedd, I had the privilege of delivering a gift from the people of Wales to the Queen

In a remarkable life, the last 48 hours of the Queen's reign were among the most extraordinary. No one who watched those events unfolding will forget the sight of someone so determined to fulfil her constitutional obligations – a duty only she could undertake, despite the unavoidable impact on her reserves of strength.

Nothing more clearly expressed that sense of duty and self-sacrifice, which were among her greatest strengths. 

No one will forget the comfort and support she offered through her extraordinary broadcast message during the height of the Covid pandemic. 

And no one will forget the image of her sitting alone, in dignified and determined observance of health regulations, at the funeral of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. It is one of the defining images of her reign. 

In July, on behalf of the Senedd, I had the privilege of delivering a gift from the people of Wales to the Queen, to commemorate her Platinum Jubilee.

The Pontfadog Oak was a tree that had stood on Cilcochwyn farm in the Ceiriog Valley for possibly 1,200 years. It was uprooted in the great storm of 2013, but thanks to the astonishing skills of specialist staff at Kew Gardens five new oak trees – genetically identical to the original – have been coaxed into new life.

Some will stay at our own National Botanical Gardens, in Carmarthenshire; one will be planted at our Covid memorial woodland in North Wales; and the Jubilee oak will be planted at Chirk Castle – the closest castle in Wales to the original site of the Pontfadog Oak.

Enduring through the ages – an apparently permanent part of our lives, offering shelter and sustenance beneath its enormous boughs – there is a real sense of unity between this gift from the people of Wales and the life it honoured and celebrated. And a sense of the future too.

The new Pontfadog Oak was received, on behalf of the Queen, by the then Prince of Wales, today's King Charles III. Now, as it takes root, it will stretch forward into a new life of service, and one with particular affiliations to Wales.

There is a proverb in Welsh: colli Tad, colli cyngor; colli Mam, colli angor. It means to lose your father is to lose an adviser; to lose your mother is to lose your anchor. We wish the King and his family all the strength to grieve in their loss and good fortune for the future.

Mark Drakeford is First Minister of Wales, leader of the Welsh Labour Party and MS for Cardiff West

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