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Comment 20 MARCH 2012

Standing ovation for Queen in Parliament

20 MARCH 2012

On an occasion that combined the full pomp and circumstance of the monarchy with flashes of the Queen's own quiet humour, the second longest reign in British history was celebrated in Parliament. 

Accompanied by Prince Philip, the monarch arrived at the North Door of Westminster Hall to hear tributes from both Houses for a magnificent ceremony marking her Diamond Jubilee.

 

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A fanfare from the trumpeters of the Household Cavalry greeted her entrance. Among the pieces they played was Greensleeves, supposedly composed by Henry VIII who once played tennis in the hall.

Speaking in the same spot where her Silver and Golden Jubilees were celebrated, the Queen made an ironic reference to her lengthy reign, saying she'd had "the pleasurable duty of treating with twelve Prime Ministers."

Some of them, including David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, laughed generously. 

Elizabeth II, whose reign is only surpassed by Queen Victoria's 63 years on the throne, also paid tribute to her husband and her children.

 

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She said: "The support of my family has been beyond measure. Prince Philip is well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.

"He and I are very proud and grateful that the Prince of Wales and other members of our family are travelling on my behalf in this Diamond Jubilee year to visit all the Commonwealth countries." 

In honour of her service, members of both Houses have paid for a stained glass window containing 1,500 pieces and designed by British artist John Reyntiens.

The Queen told her audience she hoped the "beautiful window (would) cause just a little extra colour to shine down upon this ancient place".

Westminster Hall has witnessed speeches from Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama and Pope Benedict XVI. And further back in history the remains of Oliver Cromwell were held there.



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Following a tradition dating back to the 16th century, her speech on Tuesday came after 'humble addresses' offered by Lords Speaker, Baroness De Souza and Commons Speaker John Bercow.

He described her 60-year reign as a focal point for stability during times of change.

"Transformation is inevitably turbulent. It has been Your singular accomplishment, Your unique capacity, to hold together that which could have been torn asunder.

"You have moved with the times and allowed the times to move around the rest of society."

"Gandhi observed that “in a gentle way, you can shake the world”. Your Majesty, in a gentle way you have shaken this United Kingdom and the world for six decades.




 

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The Queen's speech in full
 

"This great institution has been at the heart of the country and the lives of our people throughout its history.

"As Parliamentarians, you share with your forebears a fundamental role in the laws and decisions of your own age.

"Parliament has survived as an unshakeable cornerstone of our constitution and our way of life. History links monarchs and Parliament, a connecting thread from one period to the next.

"So, in an era when the regular, worthy rhythm of life is less eye-catching than doing something extraordinary, I am reassured that I am merely the second Sovereign to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.

"As today, it was my privilege to address you during my Silver and Golden Jubilees. Many of you were present ten years ago and some of you will recall the occasion in 1977.

Since my Accession, I have been a regular visitor to the Palace of Westminster and, at the last count, have had the pleasurable duty of treating with twelve Prime Ministers.

"Over such a period, one can observe that the experience of venerable old age can be a mighty guide but not a prerequisite for success in public office.

I am therefore very pleased to be addressing many younger Parliamentarians and also those bringing such a wide range of background and experience to your vital, national work.

During these years as your Queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure. Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.

He and I are very proud and grateful that The Prince of Wales and other members of our family are travelling on my behalf in this Diamond Jubilee year to visit all the Commonwealth Realms and a number of other Commonwealth countries.

These overseas tours are a reminder of our close affinity with the Commonwealth, encompassing about one-third of the world’s population.

My own association with the Commonwealth has taught me that the most important contact between nations is usually contact between its peoples. An organisation dedicated to certain values, the Commonwealth has flourished and grown by successfully promoting and protecting that contact. At home, Prince Philip and I will be visiting towns and cities up and down the land.

It is my sincere hope that the Diamond Jubilee will be an opportunity for people to come together in a spirit of neighbourliness and celebration of their own communities. We also hope to celebrate the professional and voluntary service given by millions of people across the country who are working for the public good.

They are a source of vital support to the welfare and wellbeing of others, often unseen or overlooked. And as we reflect upon public service, let us again be mindful of the remarkable sacrifice and courage of our Armed Forces. Much may indeed have changed these past sixty years but the valour of those who risk their lives for the defence and freedom of us all remains undimmed.

The happy relationship I have enjoyed with Parliament has extended well beyond the more than three and a half thousand Bills I have signed into law.

I am therefore very touched by the magnificent gift before me, generously subscribed by many of you. Should this beautiful window cause just a little extra colour to shine down upon this ancient place, I should gladly settle for that.

We are reminded here of our past, of the continuity of our national story and the virtues of resilience, ingenuity and tolerance which created it.

I have been privileged to witness some of that history and, with the support of my family, rededicate myself to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come. " 

 

 



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John Bercow's speech in full

 

"We are pleased to have contributed to the Jubilee Window to be revealed shortly and which will mark this occasion permanently. Time is better preserved in this historic place than in fallible human memory. Time also tells its own story.

Sixty years ago, rationing meant rather more than a short wait before the arrival of the latest electronic item. Sixty years ago, Britain had just emerged from a war of an intensity never seen before or since and had slipped into the shadow of the Korean conflict.

Sixty years ago, a new “Elizabethan Era” was awaited with enthusiasm tinged with uncertainty about the challenges ahead for the country.

If, as Gandhi asserted, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”, then Your Majesty must have found Yourself countless times over the past six decades.

You have dedicated Your life to others. The daily example that You set, mirrored by our courageous armed forces of which You are Commander-in-Chief, is extraordinary.

Yet perhaps Your Majesty’s most profound contribution has been to the continuity that has made change manageable.

For transformation is inevitably turbulent. It has been Your singular accomplishment, Your unique capacity, to hold together that which could have been torn asunder. You have moved with the times and allowed the times to move around the rest of society.

This is a different Britain from 1952 but not one detached from then. We are in so many ways a much bigger, brighter and better United Kingdom.

This is a land where men and women today are equal under the law and where Your people are respected, regardless of how they live, how they look or how they love.

This is a nation of many races, faiths and customs, now beginning to be reflected in Parliament. All this progress has occurred during Your reign.

You have become, to many of us, a kaleidoscope Queen of a kaleidoscope country in a kaleidoscope Commonwealth.

This gathering is one of many diverse events across these islands in tribute to You and this great anniversary. Our affection as a nation will rightly embrace the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of Your family.

These will be moments striking for the sincerity expressed as much as for the scenery encountered.

Sixty years of stability. Sixty years of security. Sixty years of certainty. Sixty years of sacrifice. Sixty years of service.

Gandhi also observed that “in a gentle way, you can shake the world”. Your Majesty, in a gentle way you have shaken this United Kingdom and the world for six decades.

On behalf of all the members of the House of Commons, may I thank You wholeheartedly for all that You have done, are doing and will do for the good of our country. " 

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