We give thanks for seven decades of continuity through our changing society
The State Opening of Parliament is one of the most significant dates in the parliamentary calendar. It is the time when Her Majesty officially opens Parliament from the Sovereign’s Throne and reads the Queen’s Speech, setting out the government’s agenda for the new session.
This year in 2022 it looked a little different, with Her Majesty’s responsibilities necessarily delegated to the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge as Counsellors of State, who dutifully and admirably stepped in to perform her duties. It was a significant and historic day in the history of our constitution.
One of my duties as Lord Speaker during State Opening was to accompany their Royal Highnesses through the Royal Gallery and, as I did so, I reflected on how much Her Majesty has been a steadfast and constant presence in public life. Historically, she has only ever missed two previous openings during her long reign, one in 1959 and one in 1963. She even attended a pared down ceremony in 2021 as the pandemic still gripped us. This year, the Sovereign’s Throne in the House of Lords chamber was not left empty, but removed, and the Crown then positioned in its place. This was a reminder of Her Majesty’s presence, even though she could not be physically with us on this occasion.
She is the ultimate example of integrity in public life, and continues to show an unwavering devotion to duty
State Opening is steeped in traditions enjoyed up and down the country: the Ceremonial Search, the trumpets, the carriages and the bands. Since the Queen’s reign began in 1952 there have been an extraordinary series of societal changes. We have made huge progress on equality, increased our freedoms and have begun to recognise our responsibilities to protect the environment for future generations.
Throughout this time, Her Majesty has represented an essential point of continuity, whilst personally embracing and reflecting these changes in her work as our head of state. She is the ultimate example of integrity in public life, and continues to show an unwavering devotion to duty. Her example, and indeed that of the late Duke of Edinburgh, inspired millions of people to do better, to do more and to be an example in their communities by helping others and learning new skills.
In preparing for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations I have been looking back into the Hansard records and researching tributes to Her Majesty previously given to the House. Lord Peart, the Lord Privy Seal in 1977 during the Silver Jubilee, said something which will ring even truer this year for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations:
“For the old and the young, and particularly the children, it will be a Jubilee summer which we feel sure will never be forgotten. Wherever you go, you will be greeted with the feelings of gratitude and love of your people. We, the Members of the House of Lords, warmly share these feelings and offer you our sincere thanks for a quarter of a century of devoted service.”
Now, in 2022, we can mark 70 years of unparalleled and devoted service, and for that we express our deepest thanks.
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