I am privileged to follow the profound eloquence of the noble Baroness in her tribute and I echo many of her regards. It is to the personal, the local and the international personified by her late Majesty that we pay tribute today. As the sorrowful but necessary processes in my home country north of the border pass, she will continue in the wee dark hours over the border, on her last journey home, through my home town of Berwick. Like many noble Lords, I have memories of meeting her in my home area; they no doubt felt when they met her as I did—that she knew our area more than we knew it ourselves. It was just one of the many attributes she held that are receiving tribute today.
Queen Elizabeth II lived for nearly a third of all the time of our union and was sovereign of it for nearly a quarter. This will never be repeated in the future story of these isles: a semi-mystical link between old and new, a shelter of calm in storms of turbulent political waters and, in the wider world, an embodiment of reliability as the tectonic shifts in how the world sees itself have moved, along with the place of our country in this transformation, from empire to Commonwealth, from military prowess to cultural influence.
“when the relationship between England and India took a new turn and was based on friendship and free association … I was impressed by his thoughtfulness and understanding of us and our position, and we welcomed him most willingly as Head of the Commonwealth”.—[
Her late Majesty built upon this foundation and became the reason beyond all others as to why peaceful transition with complex moral dimensions on an immense scale, touching every part of the world, has been a success.
Today, I was due to be arriving in Khartoum. Friends from there messaged me last evening, as others have from other parts of the world. I was greatly moved by the news that the pictures of her Majesty’s visit there in 1965 have been circulating widely. That country is vastly different from before and after independence—as is the world. Another Sudanese friend messaged me saying, “Her legacy in the decolonisation era will especially be remembered in our region of the world”.
No other leader of a country in world history has ever travelled so much or met more leaders and people from more countries. As one American publication put it this morning, “Among Queen Elizabeth II’s many talents was an ability to turn the most powerful man on the planet into an overexcited fanboy—tea with the Queen outranking a nuclear arsenal”.
At home in the Borders, where her visits were frequent and her knowledge of our equestrian common ridings was thorough—as was that of other members of the Royal Family; in fact, the Queen Consort was due to be in Galashiels yesterday—we will feel a gap as she passes through for the final time.
Her late Majesty made me feel it that it was a remarkable stroke of good fortune to be born British, and I know the pride felt by many people who have come and made Britain their home. That pride for our history is in my heart, but there is a sense of anxiety in the pit of my stomach for the future. Many people of my parents’ generation and, indeed, my own, and I myself, feel loss, but some will feel lost. Who will be the constancy in times of churn to come? So, for our union at home and our place in the world abroad, I thank her late Majesty, and I wish the new King every success.