The Daily Telegraph
Parliament remembers ‘Elizabeth the Great’
In a rare and special gathering, current and former PMS, party leaders and MPS share their personal tributes to the late Queen
BORIS JOHNSON said yesterday it is the
depth of the public’s grief at Queen Elizabeth II’S passing that reveals how much she was loved, as MPS of all political stripes paid tribute to her life.
Current and former prime ministers and party leaders rose in the House of Commons dressed in black to share personal stories of the late Queen’s wit, wisdom and humility. A special gatherof Parliament began yesterday and will continue today, in a rare Saturday sitting – one of just a handful since the Second World War.
After a minute’s silence at noon, MPS rose one by one to describe what Queen Elizabeth meant to the nation, the public and the wider world, as well as giving their own recollections.
Mr Johnson, in his first speech from the backbenches since stepping down as prime minister on Tuesday, paid tribute to how the late Queen had guided her son, now the King.
Mr Johnson said: “I believe she would regard it as her own highest achievement that her son – Charles III – will clearly and amply follow her own extraordinary standards of duty and service. And the fact that today we can say with such confidence ‘God Save the King’ is a tribute to him but above all to
Elizabeth the Great, who worked so hard for the good of her country not just now – but for generations to come.
“That is why we mourn her so deeply, and it is in the depths of our grief that we understand why we loved her so much.”
Mr Johnson, who saw the late Queen on Tuesday at her Scottish estate, Balmoral, to formally step down as prime minister, called her “the greatest statesman and diplomat of all”.
He said: “She knew instinctively how to cheer up the nation, how to lead a celebration. I remember her innocent joy more than 10 years ago after the opening ceremony of the London Olympics when I told her that a leader of a friendly Middle Eastern country seemed actually to believe that she had jumped out of a helicopter in a pink dress and parachuted into the stadium.”
Mr Johnson later added: “It was that indomitability, that humour, that work ethic, that sense of history which together made her Elizabeth the Great.
“And when I call her that – Elizabeth the Great – I should add one final quality: her humility. Her single-bar electric fire, Tupperware-using refusal to be grand and unlike us politicians with our outriders and our armour-plated convoys. I can tell you as a direct eyewitness that she drove herself in her own car, with no detectives and no bodyguard bouncing at alarming speed over the Scottish landscape.”
Another former prime minister, Theresa May, shared colourful stories of experiences with Queen Elizabeth, including, to the laughter of MPS, of a meal on the Balmoral estate.
Mrs May recalled: “Her Majesty loved the countryside. She was down to earth and a woman of common sense. I remember one picnic at Balmoral that was taking place in one of the bothies on the estate. The hampers came from the castle, and we all mucked in to put the food and drink out on the table. I picked up some cheese, put it on a plate and was transferring it to the table. The cheese fell on the floor.
“I had a split-second decision to make: I picked up the cheese, put it on a plate and put the plate on the table. I turned round to see that my every move
had been watched very carefully by Her Majesty the Queen. I looked at her, she looked at me and she just smiled. And the cheese remained on the table.”
Mrs May called the late Queen “quite simply the most remarkable person I have ever met,” adding: “I am someing
‘When I call her that – Elizabeth the Great – I should add one final quality: her humility’
times asked who, among all the world leaders I met, was the most impressive. I have no hesitation in saying that of all the heads of state and government, the most impressive person I met was Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”
The current leaders of the political parties also all gave their tributes in the Commons. Liz Truss, who became the late Queen’s 15th and final prime minister after taking up the position in Balmoral on Tuesday afternoon, said: “Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.
“She was the rock on which modern Britain was built. She came to the throne – at just 25 – in a country that was emerging from the shadow of war. She bequeaths a modern, dynamic nation that has grown and flourished under her reign. The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her. The Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her.”
The Prime Minister also praised the King’s “sense of duty and service” and said Britons “owe him our loyalty and devotion”.
She went on: “The British people, the Commonwealth, and all of us in this House, will support him as he takes our country forward to a new era of hope and progress, our New Carolean Age. The Crown endures. Our nation endures. And in that spirit, I say: God save the King.”
The final comment was met with shouts of “God save the King” from some of those in the Commons Chamber.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said: “For the 70 glorious years of her reign, our Queen was at the heart of this nation’s life. She did not simply reign over us; she lived alongside us, she shared in our hopes and our fears, our joy and our pain, our good times and our bad.
“Our Queen played a crucial role as the thread between the history we cherish and the present we own; a reminder that our generational battle against the evil of fascism, or the emergence of a new Britain out of the rubble of the Second World War, do not belong only to the past, but are the inheritance of each and every one of us.”
Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party leader in Westminster, said: “She was a monarch who reigned with compassion and integrity and established a deep connection with the public. And the affection which the Queen had for Scotland and that Scotland had for the Queen, cannot be underestimated.”
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the Democratic Unionist Party leader, praised the late Queen’s impact on bringing about peace in Northern Ireland. Sir Jeffrey said: “Your Majesty, on an island riven by conflict and division, you were a bridge builder … Your historic visit to the Republic of Ireland was a cathartic moment in British-irish relations. The way you conducted yourself, the language you used and the message that you brought helped to lay to rest many of the ghosts of our shared history”
Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, said: “Over her reign she has seen unprecedented social, cultural, technological change, through it all she has been the most conscientious and dutiful monarchs. But whilst she understood the unescapable nature of duty … she also delighted in carrying it out, for she was the most devoted monarch.”
Sir Iain Duncan Smith talked about the time he was invited to see the late Queen after being ousted as Conservative Party leader in 2003.
He said: “She very sweetly asked me how I was, being clearly sympathetic about what had happened. I just shrugged and said, ‘Well, ma’am, nobody died and I’m still here,’ whereupon she roared with laughter. The funny thing was that she then paused and looked at me, not sure whether I had actually made a joke. I laughed too, and then she laughed again – whether at me or with me, I could not figure out.”
Sir Iain closed his remarks by reading out a reworked poem by WH Auden, edited to pay tribute to the late Queen.
He said: “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone, Silence the pianos and with muffled drums, Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
“She was our North, our South, our East and West, Our working week and our Sunday rest, Our noon, our midnight, our talk, our song. We thought that love would last forever: we were wrong.”
Sir Iain added: “May God bless her and keep her, and hold her in our hands, and may we bless the Royal family. God save the King.”