Speech by HM Ambassador, Fiona Clouder, on the occasion of the party to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, 29 April 2016.
There have been great scenes of jubilation in the UK, celebrating the 90th birthday of Her Majesty, the Queen. It is our turn to celebrate it here, in Santiago. I am delighted that this is in the presence of our guest of honour, Lord Mountstevens, the Lord Mayor of London.
The role of Lord Mayor is to promote the City of London as the world leader in international finance and business services. The Lord Mayor will tell you a little more about the City of London, its importance for the UK, and as a global hub, in just a moment.
(And with regard to business I would first of all like to thank Nissan, Bupa and Veramonte for their very generous support of today’s event.)
The role of Lord Mayor is a very ancient one, stemming back some 8 centuries. The Lord Mayor is accompanied on his visit, by the Sherriff, an even older role – the oldest secular position in the UK, which began a 1000 years ago. Both these positions are about providing and promoting key services of the City, and hence the country.
Service and anniversaries are the themes of our celebration today. The Queen is the longest reigning monarch in British history. On her 21st birthday, The Queen pledged:
I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.
On her 90th birthday last week, the UK celebrated with great joy, the wonderful contribution the Queen has made, during her long life, to the UK, the Commonwealth and on the world stage.
A life that has spanned nearly a century. Here in Chile, people remembered last week also President Aylwin (whose name denotes a Welsh ancestry), whose life also covered much of the last 100 years. A century in which our two countries have moments of shared history, and today we celebrate times of shared joy.
President Aylwin, (whose name denotes a Welsh ancestry), was born into a new world, facing the promise of hope and peace, after the horrors of the First World War, which had ended just a few weeks before. A War in which many brave young men, ‘The West Coast Boys’, went to fight for Britain, from Chile, and where there was much support from the British community in Valparaiso, and elsewhere.
Just two years before, in 1916, there had great scenes of joy here in Valparaiso, in a world removed from the War. Crowds surrounded the British Arch, to welcome the heroes of Piloto Pardo, and the crew of the YELCHO, who had risked their own lives, in rescuing the men of Shackleton’s TransAntarctic Expedition from Elephant Island. The crowds included the ‘great grandfather, of our own Honorary Consul, in Valparaiso
In 1917, the British Chamber of Commerce opened, and we have books profiling the state of trade relations at that time. The Chamber today, is co-located with the Embassy, and a key part of our work in promoting business.
In 1925, the then Prince of Wales visited Chile. A book of the visit is on the hall table, which profiles the Chile of the time, and the world in which, in 1926, Our Queen Elizabeth was born.
In 1932 the British Embassy opened in Santiago. Prior to that the bulk of diplomatic work was consular and commercial, and fell to the Consul in Valparaiso. The Ambassador would have been charged with promoting relations of friendship, good understanding and harmony, just as I am today in my Commission from Her Majesty, The Queen, which is displayed in the hall. When I was appointed as Ambassador, I had the honour to meet Her Majesty, and she talked, recalling with pleasure, many details, of her visit to Chile in 1968. Señor Mariano de Fontecilla de Santiago Concha was charged with co-ordinating the details of her visit. I am extremely grateful to him for loaning the file of the visit, and allowing us to display today his appointment as Honorary Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
Just before Her Majesty’s visit to Chile, in 1966, the British Government took over ownership of this beautiful Residence. So today, as well as Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday, we are also celebrating 50 years of this as a British Residence. This house is of course, also part of the heritage of Chile, and we will be opening the house to the public on the Dia del Patrimonio.
I hope you that you will take the opportunity today to enjoy this historic house and also its beautiful garden, designed by the important landscaper Oscar Praeger, who designed other garden spaces in Chile, many of them now sadly lost. And this year – 2016 - is also the Year of the English Garden, launched in the UK by His Royal Highness, Prince Charles. So we celebrate an English garden, that is also very much part of Chile.
Some of you may also have seen in the hall, we have a wonderful addition to the historic paintings in the house, kindly sent by the Government Art Collection, on this 50th anniversary as a British Residence. This is a portrait of Maria Graham, Lady Calcott, the friend of Lord Cochrane, and, as her grave in London denotes, ‘A Friend of Chile’.
Today we celebrate friendship. At the start of the lifetime of The Queen relations between UK and Chile were very strong. As today, as we celebrate Her Majesty’s 90th Birthday, the links are strong, deepening and growing, and that is thanks to all of you here, who contribute so much to building the relationship between our two countries. This week, combined with the visit of the Lord Mayor, we have seen a record British attendance of 45 companies at EXPOMIN, to open up new opportunities in mining. Profiled around the house are displays on the work of the Embassy, both highlights from the last 50 years, but also our current work and key priority areas. We are delighted that President Bachelet, together with many Ministers and a delegation of 200 businessmen will visit London in May, for talks and Chile Day, to further deepen our relationship.
This house has seen many historic meetings, and hosted events to help build links between our countries. I hope you enjoy today’s event, including the food and drink, overseen by our newly appointed chef Mario. He is our longest continuous serving member of staff, and recently celebrated 25 years of service, as the butler, supporting many of the events this house has seen. I would like to thank all of my Embassy team who work so hard, and should be proud of all they have achieved to further relations between UK and Chile.
So today, we celebrate together the 90th Birthday of Her Majesty, the Queen and 50 years of this Residence. Last week we also marked, St George’s Day, the national day of England, and the birthday of Shakespeare, and 400 years since the death of Shakespeare. The Prime Minister quoted this famous speech from Shakespeare’s King Richard II
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,–
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
Shakespeare’s words have penetrated into much of our language, our thinking and concepts across the world. Chile’s own national anthem refers to ‘la copia feliz del Eden’ – the wonderful copy of Eden. I wonder if Shakespeare’s words, perhaps even subconsciously influenced the writer, to draw the parallel image of Chile as Eden, as echoes from Shakespeare’s portrayal of England.
In celebration of his mother’s 90th birthday His Royal Highness, Prince Charles drew on the words of Shakespeare, written in tribute to the first Queen Elizabeth:
She shall be, to the happiness of England, An aged princess; many days shall see her, And yet no day without a deed to crown it.
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, in her long years of service, has undertaken many deeds, which have given us much happiness.
Ladies and Gentlemen. A toast.