My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Kakkar, because I was with him on that very day, when I also took the Privy Council oath.
I start by saying how much I have enjoyed listening to other noble Lords talk about our late Queen and the way in which she has served the nation. We have heard some admirable speeches, as my noble friend Lord Wakeham said. I echo his admiration for her diligence in knowing what the issues are and being prepared to work to acquire that knowledge. Nobody can doubt that she has been a very hard-working and diligent monarch. She has combined that with constitutional integrity, which has been vital for this nation, the developing world and the Commonwealth of which she has been head.
Noble Lords have mentioned her human qualities. Perhaps that is an important dimension because that was how she was able to relate to many noble Lords here present who have had opportunities to get to know her, to work with her or to accompany her in particular activities.
I do not know whether I should declare an interest, but I want to talk about my family horticultural business. For 37 years, we have been the warrant holders, as bulb growers, to Her Majesty the Queen. Some people may say that is not a particularly proud boast, but I personally take great pleasure from it and it has preceded all this other stuff, of red Benches and the rest of it, and is probably more important in real terms than anything I have been able to do here. Although gardening does not compete with horses or dogs, it comes a very close second, and you have only to go round the royal gardens of royal properties at Balmoral, Windsor and Buckingham Palace to get an idea of how seriously Her Majesty took gardening. It was not just visits to Chelsea and scant things like that.
That has provided me with some common link. Perhaps I may end with a little bit of an anecdote from my political life, because I was a Lord in Waiting, which was for a number of us a great deal of fun and enjoyable, although it involved duties. I see colleagues here who are Baronesses in Waiting; they will know that it is a great honour but also interesting. One of the great things that the monarchy has done in this country is to make working with it interesting, with everybody feeling that it is a worthwhile thing to be doing.
Obviously, when I first went along to see Her Majesty, the bulb connection sprang to mind. It served as a common theme, so we talked about politics, of course, but we also talked about horticulture and the like. There was a famous occasion when we had a visit from a certain important ally. In fact, it was my last royal duty. We were part of the welcoming group at Buckingham Palace. The particular visitor was extraordinarily diligent, so much so that the bandmaster had to reprise the music while he inspected the guard of honour, as he insisted on stopping to speak to about every other person, asking them where they came from, what they did, how long they had been in the service or whatever it happened to be.
Subsequently, this particular distinguished visitor seemed to take an awfully long time moving around in the reception area. Her Majesty said to me, “I think we’re going to have to break this up. He’s getting stuck.” Of course, she was rather mischievous about this, but asked me what I thought we should talk to him about. I said, “Why don’t we talk to him about daffodils?” Of course, this particular President was not used to talking about daffodils. He had never met anybody who knew anything about daffodils, and he certainly did not know anything about them himself. He was much more interested in casinos, New York property development and things like that, if I might say so. Oh! I have revealed who it is. Never mind; the confidentiality of these speeches is well known.
I felt that it was evidence of her humanity that the thing that helped her through the days of hard work that she had to accomplish was the fact that she had a sense of humour, a genuine wit, and she was great fun. All noble Lords here who have had anything to do with Her Majesty will know that to be with her was great fun.
I wish the House comfort in its grief because we are all upset at her death. May the King live long.