Whilst we knew Queen Elizabeth II couldn’t live forever, her passing has left the nation with a deep sense of loss. Perhaps it’s because she was an ever steady presence in our lives so we feel we knew her, perhaps it’s because she was a figure of reassurance, or perhaps too, after several years of upheaval she was the one constant in our lives and that too has now been taken from us. Whatever the reason, there has been an all mighty outpouring of grief, with unprecedented numbers of the public wishing to pay their respects, be it outside the many palaces across the four nations, at local civic meetings or wishing to visit her this week lying in state.
And I as your local MP, was enormously privileged to have met the late Queen on numerous occasions, as a Privy Counsellor and as Secretary of State. I paid tribute to the Queen in the House of Commons last week, through the eyes of the school children from Tatton - for she loved children and children were spellbound by her.
When visiting schools, especially primary or junior, the question most frequently asked was “Have you met the Queen?” When I said yes there were literally squeals of delight and gasps of disbelief. Uncontainable excitement rippled through the class. Such was the impact that this lady had on people of all ages and in all parts of the country. And the clatter of questions that followed! So I’d try to describe the Queen to them as they sat and listened, eyes wide open.
“Well,” I’d say, “she was diminutive, yet she was imposing. She was gentle, yet steely. She had powder puff grey hair, and a big beam of a smile, but it was her eyes that were remarkable and memorable. They were penetrating and bottomless, the knowledge behind them limitless. You could almost feel what she had seen and experienced. You were in the presence of wisdom. Her eyes were kind, too. She was a curious blend, quite disarming and yet incredibly caring. And was I nervous? Without doubt. You’re in the presence of greatness, whose life spanned war and peace, and that nervousness is amplified by the royal protocol that she lived through and by.
She gave her whole life to the service of others and we can all learn from the qualities she showed. She was dutiful, patient and kind and she reigned with grace and dignity.
Her memory will live on for decades to come and I will cherish my special moments with her.
God bless the Queen; may she rest in peace. God save the King