Her Majesty the Queen: 90th Birthday Debate

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Department: Leader of the House

Her Majesty the Queen: 90th Birthday

Lord Sentamu Excerpts
Thursday 21st April 2016

(8 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB)
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My Lords, as the House knows, members of the Cross-Bench group whom I represent seldom, if ever, speak with one voice. I am reminded of that feature of our existence almost every day, but this occasion, surely, is quite different. I know that each member of the group would wish me to say how delighted we all are to be associated in every way with what has been said, and that we join together as one in supporting this Motion.

The Cross-Bench group brings to this House Members with a wide range of experience. Many have spent their entire working lives in the public service. Some, by reason of the positions that they have held, have a much greater appreciation than the rest of us of the volume of work with which Her Majesty has lived for so many years, with such a great sense of dedication and commitment. But all of us, in one way or another, have our own memories of her and of the service that she has given. We can all share in the memories of the great occasions.

Perhaps one above the others that deserves to be remembered today is Her Majesty’s state visit to Dublin in May 2011. Her remarkable speech at the state dinner in Dublin Castle was surely an extraordinary moment in history, which only she could bring about. Her silent tribute in the garden of remembrance the previous day had done so much to settle memories of the past.

One occasion that stands out in my own memory, because I was there, was her Address to both Houses in Westminster Hall on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee. It is hard to believe, but that was 14 years ago in 2002. The then Speaker, Speaker Martin, and the Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Irvine of Lairg, who I am glad to see is in his place, presented their addresses and handed them to her after reading them. Then it was her turn. She stood up and went forward to the microphones to read her own speech. There was no table; there was no lectern; she held her speech in front of her as she stood alone, I thought with great courage, on the steps in front of a huge audience. Unlike the speeches at a State Opening, that speech was her own creation—full of warmth and perfect for the occasion. She ended with a triumphant sentence assuring us of her resolve to continue to serve us all to the best of her ability. It was faultlessly read, as always, in a firm, clear voice. She then sat down to prolonged applause, which lasted for well over a minute. She seemed not to have expected that, and was greatly moved by that applause, but it was so well deserved.

Later she joined us for a reception in the Royal Gallery. One of the Law Lords who was with me had his back to her as she reached us. He was tapped on the shoulder by the Lord Chancellor. My colleague had the misfortune to be in the process of eating a large biscuit. Something was bound to go wrong and, indeed, it did. When he turned round, he was so astonished to see her standing beside him that he dropped his biscuit onto the floor right in front of Her Majesty’s feet. Her Majesty, who has a great sense of humour, was much amused. Another Law Lord, a judge from New Zealand, was then introduced. Her Majesty said to him, “I hear that you are about to end your appeals to the Privy Council”. He replied that it would not affect him, as he had already reached the retirement age of 75 and would no longer be able to sit. “When was your birthday?”, she asked. When he said that it was in June, she exclaimed, “You are two months younger than I am”. So much hangs on those words—we can all do our own arithmetic—but those words were as clear a demonstration as there could be that retirement was not for Her Majesty, that it is not and it never has been. How blessed we all are that this is so.

On behalf of all of us on the Cross Benches, I join with the rest of the House in supporting the Motion and wishing Her Majesty a very happy birthday. We offer her our warmest congratulations and our profound thanks. I think it is also right to say that we offer our profound thanks to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh—always there at Her Majesty’s side and with his own unique sense of humour, as has been said. For him, too, surely, this is a very happy day.

Lord Sentamu Portrait The Archbishop of York
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My Lords, on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the Lords Spiritual, I wish to endorse most heartily the proposed message of congratulations to Her Majesty, by divine providence Queen, head of the Commonwealth and defender of the faith.

At her coronation, Archbishop Fisher placed on the Queen’s wrists two newly-made gold bracelets, presented by a number of the overseas realms and territories as a symbol of the Commonwealth. As he did so, he said these words:

“Receive the Bracelets of sincerity and wisdom, both for tokens of the Lord’s protection embracing you on every side; and also for symbols and pledges of that bond which unites you with your Peoples”.

Today we give thanks for the Lord’s protection that has embraced Her Majesty on every side these many years. We also want to pay tribute to the sincerity, wisdom and devotion which she has consistently manifested throughout her long and glorious reign. They have served greatly to strengthen that bond between the Sovereign and all her peoples.

Since 1952, there have been seven Archbishops of Canterbury and seven Archbishops of York. What Her Majesty has made of that richly diverse and eclectic collection of Primates will no doubt never be revealed. All that I can say, from those of the Archbishops whom I have known, is that each has like me valued the support, interest, faithfulness and prayers of our Supreme Governor more than it is possible to describe. There are very few other people to whom an Archbishop can open his heart, knowing that his confidences will go no further and certain that at the end of the conversation he will go away affirmed and encouraged.

And so let this be a day for thanksgiving and much rejoicing on Her Majesty’s birthday. Long live the Queen!

Baroness D'Souza Portrait The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza)
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My Lords, perhaps I may briefly add my warmest congratulations to Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her 90th birthday. The tributes that we have heard today from all sides of the Chamber show the gratitude that this House, and indeed the nation, owe her for her extraordinary service throughout her reign. It is therefore my honour to put the Question today that the Motion be agreed to.