At this time of national mourning, I made the following speech in Parliament on Friday 9th September as the tribute that I offered Her Majesty on behalf of my South Thanet constituents:
“It is a true honour to be here at this time in our nation’s history and to be able to speak about my sorrow and the great grief of my constituents in South Thanet. Yesterday was a day that we all knew would come, but we all hoped that it never would. We were all trusting that the huge longevity of the Queen Mother, who died at 101, would give us more years of the Queen in her place, giving us certainty and calm through her powerful and steady service to our country, her realms overseas and the Commonwealth.
As the day developed—it was a day that I will never forget—from mid-afternoon I felt a deep sadness, and as the official announcement came out at about half-past 6, my emotion was overflowing. I asked myself why. Why did I have this emotion, this love, for a 96-year-old whom I had never met and who died peacefully after a life well lived in a home that she loved, surrounded by family?
Few in this House would have met her properly, apart from Prime Ministers. Most interactions would have been brief and fleeting—they are moments that everybody cherishes—with that most remarkable lady. I was saddened because she had been ingrained in my life, and in all of our lives. She was that true and reliable person that the country had grown to rely on for all of our lives. We grew up looking every day at banknotes, coins and stamps with that image, which was replicated literally hundreds of billions of times in this country, in her overseas realms and across the Commonwealth. We knew her on a daily basis.
Across those 70 years, this remarkable woman saw new nations form. She saw empires collapse. She saw Governments here and abroad come and go, and she met most of the characters involved. We looked to her at this nation’s times of great crisis and great joy. Consider this: the first Prime Minister whom the Queen called on to form a Government was Winston Churchill, who was born in 1874, and her last Prime Minister—our current Prime Minister—was born in 1975. That spans a period of more than 100 years, which is quite staggering. She was on the throne for close to 30% of the entire time for which the United States has been in existence. The changes that she lived through were staggering, and yet she adapted seamlessly to each and every one.
The Queen was the rock that we thought would stand forever—she was our Head of State, Queen in many other realms and dominions, and Head of the Commonwealth—but she was more than that. I feel she was the true matriarch of the world, and I think we are seeing that in the grief and the tributes from across virtually every country in the world today. There is no part of this United Kingdom and no constituency that she did not touch with either a visit or a patronage, and in my patch of South Thanet people still talk about that visit to Ramsgate in 1993 and Margate in 2011.
It is at times like this that we see our constitution in play. All roads of that continuity—the community, Government, our armed services, our police and justice—led to her, and now we see a smooth transfer of the Crown to her dear son. She managed to keep the magic and mystery of monarchy, while we in this country and everybody around the world took her into our hearts. In our dear Majesty’s words after 9/11:
‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’
We grieve now, and we look to a new era under Charles III. Rest in peace, Your Majesty. Thank you for your service, and God save the King.”