My Lords, I feel distinctly underqualified to offer my tribute today, particularly in such august company, but I feel humbled that we have this opportunity to do so.
Like the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, I wish my father were here because he was very involved in horseracing throughout his life—something that we know the Queen absolutely adored and was unbelievably knowledgeable about, as my father could attest to. As a result of hanging on to my father’s coat-tails, I was extremely fortunate in my early 20s to have the honour of my life; it was almost more of an honour than when I was brought into this place. I was invited to stay at Windsor Castle for Ascot Week. As I was a young 20 year-old, as you can imagine, my mother packed my suitcase and made sure that I knew what to do. I could curtsey because my ballet training had helped with that, but I was sent off with many lectures, such as, “Don’t you dare put a foot wrong and let us down”.
I must say, from the moment I walked into Windsor Castle, Her Majesty could not have been kinder or more wonderful a host to that nervous young girl, even when I forgot basic things, such as my race glasses—which it is pretty essential to take to a race meeting. We were all under a great timetable, so I ran down those long corridors thinking, “Have I got time to get them before we’re meant to be in the cars?” and all the rest of it. Her Majesty saw my problem and shoogled me along, saying, “No, off you go, go in front of me”. I also experienced the deep disappointment of the schoolchildren lining the route and waving at us as we went up the racecourse, which was amazing. When they got to the carriage I was in, right at the back, I could see them thinking, “Who on earth is that?”
However, that is not really what I want to pay tribute to. As the leader of a charity, I want to say thank you and note Her Majesty’s enormous contribution to civic society and charities. As has been said, she was patron of more than 600 charities. In fact, the Royal Family’s website notes that more than 3,000 charities have a member of the Royal Family as either their patron or their president. These charities are throughout the UK. They cover all aspects of life, from health and disability to education, the arts and sport. It is tireless, unglamorous work. The visits the Royal Family make to charities make a huge difference, not only to the organisations themselves, in highlighting some really important and sometimes not very fashionable issues. For the people we support, the beneficiaries, their visits are a highlight. In my experience, nobody ever says no to coming to meet a member of the Royal Family.
This also highlights the importance of the Royal Family, because that is an awful lot of organisations. As we heard in His Majesty’s address, he will not be able to carry on the work that he has done. I therefore thank the wider members of the Royal Family who support this work and have until now supported the late Queen, because I would consider any organisation fortunate to have a royal patron.
I have two other things to note quickly. Her Majesty’s love of Scotland was a love by heritage but also by experience. Given that she died at Balmoral and we have all these events in Scotland in the coming days, it is wonderful to note that love of Scotland. As somebody said, she was a unionist to the end. Her most political statements were in the Silver Jubilee and before the referendum, about the importance of the union of all four nations of the United Kingdom.
Finally, we have heard many people speak about her service and it being a personal service, but it is also a personal service from us to our monarch. The last time I was in the same vicinity as Her Majesty was in July, in the Palace of Holyrood House, where there was a reddendo by the Royal Company of Archers, the Queen’s personal bodyguard in Scotland. They are all volunteers and amateurs. My husband happens to be the Adjutant of the Royal Company of Archers, and they were organising a reddendo.
I did not know what a reddendo was, and I was put in my place by my husband, because it was to mark the 200th anniversary of the forming of the Royal Company of Archers. It was the one event of the week that was not about the Platinum Jubilee and it was an opportunity for them, after 200 years, to say, “Thank you, your Majesty, for allowing us to be your personal bodyguard”. She was on absolutely tremendous form that day, and 324 volunteer amateurs turned out and put on a fantastic parade that made her smile light up. I just note the captain-general’s words on that occasion. In his speech to the late Queen, he noted that in its 200 years, the Royal Company of Archers had served eight monarchs, but more than one-third of its history had been spent serving her. It was a privilege to thank her.
Our new King ended his remarks by saying that hers was a life well lived. It was, and, like the archers at their reddendo, I too should like to say thank you.