Ed Davey on Queen Elizabeth, jubilees and parachuting monarchs

A week ago, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey joined members of the House of Commons in paying tribute to the Queen.

Davey said: “The whole country will agree that our Queen has more than fulfilled her promises made to our nation. With her sense of selflessness and her steadfast commitment to the nation, these values and her service have defined Her Majesty’s seven-decade reign and will continue to define her. The unwavering nature of her service and duty is made all the more remarkable by the length of Her Majesty’s reign.”

Reminiscing about the silver jubilee, he said: “My strongest memory of 1977 is the Queen’s smile and personal delight as Virginia Wade won Wimbledon. My fingers are crossed that Emma Raducanu might serve up something similar later this year.”

Davey said the highlight of the diamond jubilee in 2012 was watching the Queen parachute down to the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics. Asking Queen Margrethe of Denmark when she was taking up parachuting. She replied: “When I’m over 80.”

Ed Davey’s speech in full:

It is a pleasure, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, to join every party in the House today to send our best wishes and support this address to the Queen. Two weeks ago, following the Queen’s Speech, we sent our well wishes for Her Majesty’s health, so it has been wonderful to see the Queen out and about in the past two weeks at various celebrations and events—most recently opening her namesake, the Elizabeth line, and attending the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea flower show.

In her coronation speech, Queen Elizabeth said:

“Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.”

I think the whole country will agree that our Queen has more than fulfilled her promises made to our nation. With her sense of selflessness and her steadfast commitment to the nation, these values and her service have defined Her Majesty’s seven-decade reign and will continue to define her. The unwavering nature of her service and duty is made all the more remarkable by the length of Her Majesty’s reign. Our Queen is the longest-reigning female monarch in history, not just of this country, but of anywhere in the world. Unlike any other monarch—in this country, at least—her reign has seen more peace and more prosperity than at any time in our nation’s history. The Queen’s gentle but strong presence throughout these years has been ever constant, and in challenging times, she is always a source of calm and comfort.

Her Majesty movingly described the Duke of Edinburgh, whose presence will be greatly missed at the jubilee celebrations, as her “strength and stay”. Well, truly, Her Majesty is the strength and stay of our nation. Through it all, she has remained above the fray of politics. That is so valuable and important, because we in this democratic place will inevitably have disagreements on many, many things. There are, and should be, many shades of opinion, but because of Her Majesty, being proud of our country—being patriotic—is not about someone’s political allegiance. It is not grounded in whether they agree with the Government of the day, so I am grateful that the Queen clearly values her loyal Opposition as much as her Government.

It is because of the Queen that Members from across the House—political polar opposites—can come together today and reflect on the many things that we have in common. We can all celebrate and share that sense of pride in our nation in this platinum jubilee. In 1977, 2002 and 2012, we were fortunate enough to enjoy other jubilees, with street parties, commemorative mugs and, of course, the unforgettable sight of Brian May playing guitar on the roof of Buckingham Palace.

I was at school when we celebrated the silver jubilee and, to be honest, my strongest memory of 1977 is the Queen’s smile and personal delight as Virginia Wade won Wimbledon. My fingers are crossed that Emma Raducanu might serve up something similar later this year.

For the golden jubilee in 2002, I was honoured to meet Her Majesty when she visited my constituency in the royal borough of Kingston. The Queen unveiled a stone commemorating the 1,100th anniversary of the coronation of King Edward the Elder—one of the great Anglo-Saxon kings—who was crowned in Kingston. In 2025, Kingston will celebrate the 1,100th anniversary of the crowning of King Athelstan, the first true, undisputed King of England. Nothing would bring me greater pleasure than to welcome our country’s greatest monarch back to Kingston to mark that special occasion.

As others have said, the highlight of the diamond jubilee in 2012 was watching the film when the Queen parachuted down to the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics. I have been honoured to have several conversations with the Queen over the years. I will not disclose those, but I will disclose a conversation that I had with Queen Margrethe of Denmark during the summer Olympics, when I was able to visit her on the royal yacht—it was a rather small affair compared with the one that the Government currently want to buy. I asked Queen Margrethe when she was taking up parachuting. She drew on a cigarette—Queen Margrethe of Denmark is a committed smoker—and said, “When I’m over 80.” She has some very kind words to say about Queen Elizabeth II.

As for the platinum jubilee, I am sure that, like me, colleagues across the House have already engaged in celebrations in our constituencies. Last Monday, I channelled my inner Mary Berry to judge a jubilee bake-off at Ellingham Primary School in Chessington. I was thrilled to crown Charlotte as the star baker for her delicious Union Jack cake, topped with raspberries and blueberries, and to present prizes, too, to year group winners Nancy and Aiden for their jubilee tributes.

Among the mountains of children’s sponge cakes and cupcakes, I was struck by two things: the huge temptation to cheat on my diet—I did not, Mr Deputy Speaker—and the palpable excitement and enthusiasm that young children had for the Queen and the jubilee. One of the joys of royal jubilees is seeing how they bring people together and the excitement of young people, especially in our communities and at their wonderful street parties—I am hoping to go to many in my constituency. I join Members in all parts of the House in wishing Her Majesty the very best on this momentous occasion.

* Newshound: bringing you the best Lib Dem commentary in print, on air or online.

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