On her first address to the nation as Queen, Her Majesty pledged that throughout all her life, and with all her heart, she would strive to be worthy of the people’s trust: this she has achieved beyond question. The nation holds her in its heart, not just as the figurehead of an institution but as an individual who has served this country with unerring grace, dignity and decency.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth has been one of unparalleled change, from rationing through to the jet age, to the space age, to the digital age.
Throughout this extraordinary change, the longest-lived monarch in our history has remained resolutely unchanged in her commitment and studious in her duties. It does not matter whether it is something we suspect she enjoys, like the highland games at Braemar, or things we suspect she might be less keen on, such as spending new year’s eve in the Millennium Dome, she never, ever falters. She has always done her duty, and this stability is essential for our national life.
While the sands of culture shift and the tides of politics ebb and flow, Her Majesty has been a permanent anchor, bracing Britain – bracing Britain against the storms, grounding us in certainty. Crucially, simultaneously, she has moved the monarchy forward. It has been said that the art of progress is to preserve order amid change and change amid order, and in this the Queen is unparalleled.
According to one royal biographer, she has met 4 million people in person. That is equivalent to the entire population of New Zealand. At garden parties alone, she has invited some 2 million people to tea. She is, of course, Queen of 16 countries, and has surely travelled more widely than any other Head of State in history. Like her previous 11 Prime Ministers, I have been struck by Her Majesty’s perspective on world events, and like my predecessors I am truly grateful for the way she handles our national interests.
Last year’s visit to Ireland was a lesson in statecraft. It showed once again that the Queen can extend the hand of friendship like no other. And in all her realms, from Tuvalu to Barbados, from Papua New Guinea to St Vincent and the Grenadines, from Britain to Jamaica, she is loved because she is a Queen of everyone — for each of us and for all of us.
“Diamond” is I believe the appropriate epithet for this jubilee. For 60 years, Her Majesty has been a point of light in our national life — brilliant, enduring and resilient. For that, she has the respect of this House and the enduring affection of all her people.