Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II - Tributes (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:00 pm on 9 September 2022.

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Photo of Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Crossbench 3:00, 9 September 2022

My Lords, I belong to a generation of Caribbean young who had parents and grandparents who bemoaned the end of the Empire. My father was from Angola, but my mother was from Sav-la-mar, Jamaica, and I will never forget her and her mother constantly wishing for the better days of the 1950s. On one occasion, I listened to my mother railing against the new democracy in Jamaica, saying “Tsk, dem all useless, but de Queen, she gorgeous.” That sense of affectionate love for this distant lady—our sovereign, her sovereign—was deep and immense.

I also recall so clearly a radical Government appointed by election in the early 1970s who wanted to do away with the Queen’s Christmas Day broadcast. I remember from when I was a child the protests in Kingston. People came out on the streets for weeks, placarding and threatening to bombard the radio stations if they removed the broadcast. It continues to this day.

In the opening remarks from the Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord True, and the Leader of the Opposition, the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, reference was made to the fact that the Queen passed through all these years without expressing an opinion. That is not quite correct, because I have the opinion in my hands in a letter from Balmoral Castle, which I am happy to show the House, dated 14 September 1976.

Some 46 years ago, when I was just 18, I received a letter from the press secretary of Her Majesty the Queen, Ron Allison, who passed recently. He wrote:

“I am commanded by The Queen to acknowledge your recent letter about the projected film on the life of Jesus Christ which a Mr. Jens Thorsen proposes to produce.”

Some of the older Members here might recall the massive public debate in 1976 about a Danish filmmaker’s interest in the intimate life of Jesus. The letter goes on:

“While Her Majesty finds this proposal quite as obnoxious as most of her subjects do, the preventing of the making of such a film in the United Kingdom, or the exclusion from this country of Mr. Thorsen, could only be accomplished within the laws of the United Kingdom. Accordingly, your letter has been referred at Her Majesty’s commands to the Home Office.”

The then Home Secretary, Mr Merlyn Rees, found it impossible to allow entry to the country to pursue such a bizarre interest.

Many years later, I met Ron Allison by mistake. He looked at me and said, “You’re—”, and I said, “Yes, and you’re—”. I was still in my early 20s. I said to him then, “Did you write the letter, or did Her Majesty the Queen dictate it?” He said, “Oh no, she dictated it.” So I said that she wished it be known that she had a view that this was obnoxious and, for those old enough to remember, it was front-page news for days. I still have all the cuttings from all those years ago. I featured on endless news broadcasts, as a young black man standing up at the age of 18 in defence of the faith and the Jesus she loved, and defending what should be proper process. Yes, the Home Secretary must decide, as he did, by order and command, but Her Majesty made it clear that things were “obnoxious”. That is the one view she expressed in her long reign, and I am proud to hold it in my hands.