My Lords, I share something with the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Newnham: I never had the honour of meeting Her Majesty, although I did have the honour of being in her presence.
I did not grow up in Britain, or indeed in a monarchy. Queen Elizabeth was not the daily background to my childhood and identity, as I know she was for so many people in this House, in this nation and across the Commonwealth. In school, I was taught about the former kingdom of Yugoslavia and its royal family, who had abandoned the country at a time of great difficulty in the Second World War and whose supporters had been on the wrong side of history. Yet, as I studied the language and literature of this country at university, and then sought refuge here, the virtues and principles of Her late Majesty the Queen showed me a different idea of monarchy.
The values Elizabeth II embodied, to which noble Lords have paid tribute so eloquently, were the values I have come to associate with this United Kingdom which is now my home. The sense of service which she so defined, and defined her, and which she chose to emphasise as the fundamental principle of her reign, is an example and inspiration to all of us in public life. The Queen was a reminder that, across periods of huge change in politics, society and technology, there are values that persist. Through times of uncertainty or division, she was a unifying force. You could look to her for continuity and an idea of how to act and how to serve.
Her leadership was respected and admired across the world. As one former refugee from Iran now serving in the United Nations told me this morning, it does not matter where you are from: she was a point of light for us all. For the people of this nation, the Commonwealth and the world, the Queen represents an ideal of decency and quiet duty which offers hope and reassurance.
For those like me who came to this country as refugees and immigrants, the Queen brought us together. In our admiration and love for her, we became British. She was a lighthouse, guiding us through the darkness and showing us by her actions how we might place duty and humility at the heart of our lives. So she will remain.
My thoughts now are with her family and His Majesty the King. Our pain can be only a shadow of what they feel—those who knew her best and loved her first as a mother and a grandmother. I offer His Majesty King Charles III my loyalty and support, and pray for his long reign.