Dick Newby: The Queen championed community, generosity, kindness and service to others

The next in our series of tributes to the Queen comes from our Leader in the Lords, Dick Newby. He talked of her serenity in times of trauma and the values of

My Lords, it is only a matter of weeks since your Lordships’ House met to pay tribute to the Queen on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee. On that occasion, we knew that the Queen was already in frail health, but nobody contemplated that her reign had such a short period ahead of it. Because the Queen is the only monarch most people have known and was a permanent, reassuring presence in a challenging and rapidly changing world, her death has clearly come to millions as a great shock. For all but the oldest among us, a hitherto ever-present feature of British life has been removed and a deep sense of loss is felt not just by my generation, but by many of our children and grandchildren, for whom one might have thought that the Queen was a distant and possibly irrelevant figure.

What was the basis of this universal appeal? I suggest that it is because she demonstrated qualities that appeal across and down the ages. She was constant. As the world changed, as Prime Ministers and Presidents came and went, she exuded a sense of serenity and calm and, in times of national trauma and tragedy, a sense that these difficulties were surmountable, that they should be met with fortitude and that they would pass. She was unwavering in her commitment to the service of the nation and to her duty to represent its traditions and values, but she was sensitive to changing times, realising that the monarchy too had to change—had to be more open, more accessible and more accountable for everything it did. She was empathetic. For someone whose daily life was as different as it is possible to be from that of the vast majority of her subjects, she had an ability to communicate with them as individuals, to put them at ease and to make them feel truly special.

She had a great sense of humour. This no doubt helped her deal with the vagaries of her own life, but she used it effortlessly to defuse potentially difficult situations and to put the thousands of people she met at ease. She had a zest for life and for the role she had been allotted. Just look at the picture taken earlier this week as she met the new Prime Minister. That smile was genuine and heartwarming. Finally, she appealed to people’s better natures. Every year in her Christmas broadcast, she championed the values of community, generosity, kindness and service to others. We politicians share these values, but the nature of political debate means that we rarely articulate them. The country also shares them and looked to the Queen to champion them, which she unfailingly did.

These qualities were underpinned by two constants in her own life. The first, as we heard, was her marriage to Prince Philip, whom she repeatedly called her rock. For anyone who saw them together, there was no doubting that this was indeed the case. The second was her religious faith. This not only provided a source of strength and comfort for her but underpinned her approach to being the monarch. There is, in the Book of Common Prayer, the evocative concept of an individual’s “bounden duty”. The Queen applied this concept not only to her spiritual life but to her public role. She understood the importance of that duty for a monarch and she fulfilled her duties, one might say, religiously—literally to the end of her life.

As we remember the Queen, we also have in our thoughts, His Majesty King Charles—how strange it is to be using those words—Prince William and all other members of the Royal Family. We send them our condolences and good wishes for the difficult days ahead. We have lived our lives in the Elizabethan age, and how fortunate we have been to do so.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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