The Prime Minister David Cameron has delivered an address to the House of Commons, praising HM The Queen’s contribution to her nations, in the year of the Diamond Jubilee.
Mr Cameron said:
“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.
At her first investiture as Queen, the very first decoration she presented was a Victoria Cross for heroism in the Korean War. Since then, members of the Armed Forces - her Armed Forces - have been in action all over the world, from Aden to the Falklands, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. Around the world, dictatorships have died and democracies have been born. And across the old British Empire, a vibrant Commonwealth of nations has expanded and flourished.
Throughout this extraordinary change, the longest-lived Monarch in our history has remained resolutely unchanged in her commitment and studious in her duties. We know there are highlights in the Royal calendar like handing medals to our brave troops or the Royal Windsor horse show and then there are things that are more of a chore, like spending New Year’s Eve in the Millennium Dome. But she has always done her duty - and this stability is essential to 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 against the storms, grounding us in certainty. And 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. She has never shut the door on the future; instead, she has led the way through it. Ushering in the television cameras. Opening up the Royal Collection and the Palaces. Hosting receptions and awards ceremonies for every area of public life. It is easy to take these things for granted - but we must remember that these were her initiatives. She was broadcasting to the nation every Christmas Day thirty years before we let the cameras into this House. In doing these things she ended a thousand-year distance that existed between British monarchs and their people. Indeed, while much her life has been governed by tradition and protocol, the Queen has always taken a thoroughly pragmatic view of such matters.
On arriving at one engagement in Scotland, she noticed that the poor local Lord-Lieutenant was having considerable trouble extracting both himself and his sword from the official car in order to perform the introductions. While embarrassed civic dignitaries cleared their throats, the Queen cut straight through this seemingly insoluble ceremonial problem by walking up to the greeting line, hand outstretched, with the words “My Lord-Lieutenant appears to be having difficulty in getting out of the car, so I’d better introduce myself. I’m the Queen.” That human connection is a hallmark of her reign.
Over sixty years, according to one royal biographer, she has met four million people in person equivalent to the population of New Zealand. In terms of garden parties alone, she has invited some two million people to tea. She is, of course, Queen of sixteen countries and has surely travelled more widely than any other Head of State in history. As she herself has been heard to say - and it is a lesson for all of us in this House - ‘I have to be seen to be believed.’ All this has given her remarkable insight. Like her previous eleven 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. She was the first monarch to visit China. The first to visit Russia. The first to pay a state visit to the Vatican. Her trip to post-Apartheid South Africa was a statement that resounded across continents. And of course, there is the Commonwealth. It is doubtful whether this great alliance would ever have thrived without the dedication of Her Majesty. When the Queen became Head of the Commonwealth in 1952, it had eight members; today, it has 54.
No one has done more to promote this unique family of nations, spanning every continent, all the main religions and nearly a third of the world’s population. 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 for everyone; for each of us and all of us. The Diamond Jubilee gives us the chance to show our gratitude. By the time she opens the Olympics, the Queen’s Jubilee tour will have taken her and Prince Philip to every part of the United Kingdom.
In June, London will see a huge pop concert, a great procession and the largest gathering on the Thames for more than three centuries barges and cutters; narrow boats and motor boats square riggers, naval vessels, the little ships of Dunkirk all of them will be there to pay tribute to our magnificent Queen. Diamond is an appropriate epithet for this Jubilee. For sixty 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 her people.”