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12.35 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Luke). I also have a fond memory of 1991. I went to Clarence house as chairman of the William Morris Craft Fellowship, along with a brilliant young woodcarver and some members of the committee. Our task was to present Her Majesty with a wonderful carved head of William Morris. She received it with great delight, looked at it, stroked the wood and said, "What a noble head. It reminds me of one of your colleagues in the House—Mr. Faulds." The resemblance was indeed striking.

That is just one of a number of memories that I have, but my fondest is of receiving the Queen Mother when I was warden of St. Margaret's across the road—the House of Commons church. Every year she came to the field of remembrance in November for the dedication of that field, and every year after the short service she would go round and speak to as many as she could of the assembled veterans and the bereaved, taking, as it were, a personal interest in each one. Then, when the tour was complete, she would come into St. Margaret's and sign the book. She had a great love for our church and contributed to its restoration when we had the great appeal some years ago.

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I remember that in 1990, when the Queen Mother had turned 90, she came in and said, "I'm terribly sorry. I think I've been too long this year." She had spent about an hour and three quarters going round. She said, "You know, there are an awful lot of old people out there." That was typical of her.

The Prime Minister spoke very movingly of all that the Queen Mother did and all that she meant during the second world war. It would be appropriate for us commemorate in a tangible and proper way all that she did and all that she stood for. There is nobody in the Chamber for whom she was not a central figure in the nation's life throughout our lives. I wonder whether we ought to take the Monday nearest 11 November and make that an annual holiday, remembering the veterans and the fallen, and also remembering her. I hope that that idea will commend itself to the Prime Minister and colleagues in all parts of the House.

I hope, too, that further thought will be given to making next Tuesday a public holiday. The House will not sit, as a mark of respect. That is right and proper. Others should have a similar opportunity. We are commemorating the life of the most remarkable woman of the 20th century, who has touched all our lives, directly or indirectly, and who will never be forgotten. Her memory should not be forgotten, either.

12.39 pm

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye): On behalf of my constituents in Hastings and Rye, I express our heartfelt condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family at this time of personal loss. Families, whether royal or not, suffer the same sense of bereavement, and for those in the public eye, the hurt is no less. During last year's general election, my own dear mother, Dolly Foster, died. I appreciate, therefore, how much more difficult it is for those who must grieve in the public gaze.

I want to refer in my brief contribution, however, to the enormous affection and respect in which the Queen Mother was held by so many of my constituents. Because of the age profile of those living in Hastings and Rye, many recall her sense of duty and commitment during the war years about which many other right hon. and hon. Members have also spoken.

I recall the wonderful celebrations that we held in our town centre on the occasion of her 100th birthday. It was Tesco champagne and 1066 birthday cake, and I am pretty sure that she would have welcomed the knees-up that all our elderly folk enjoyed.

The special affection in which Her Majesty was held by so many of my constituents arose in part because of two special relationships. The first may seem trivial, but she was an honorary member of Hastings Old Town Winkle Club. Its members had presented her with a special gold winkle brooch, which she wore on her 100th birthday, to the pride and satisfaction of all we Hastingsers. "I'm a winkler too", she was heard to say as the winkle club contingent passed in the birthday parade.

The more significant connection was Her Majesty's role as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, to which the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) referred. I hope that he will not mind my saying this, but Hastings, as the senior cinque port, as well as Rye and Winchelsea, are all members of the

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confederation. When the mayors from my constituency of Hastings and Rye, as barons of the cinque ports, attend the funeral next Tuesday of our beloved Lord Warden, it will be a further link with the Crown that goes back, it is believed, more than 1,000 years to Edward the Confessor.

Older generations remember Her Majesty setting out at 8 am each morning to visit the communities that had been bombed the night before. On that basis, Her Majesty was a worthy holder of the office of Lord Warden, a position that Winston Churchill assumed in the 1940s. The cinque ports were historically the front line in the defence of the realm, and for Her Majesty to be our Lord Warden was a great honour for us.

Our links in Hastings and Rye and in the whole of the confederation go back much further than that. It is 65 years since the barons of the cinque ports attended Her Majesty's coronation. The ritual of carrying a canopy over the king's head at the coronation was abandoned in the 19th century and the privilege granted to the barons of the cinque ports to carry it was lost, but Edward VII directed that the barons should always be invited to such celebrations and, I fear, such events as next Tuesday's.

Thus it was that our links with Her Majesty started early. It was entirely appropriate, none the less, that her inspiration in the war was why she was appointed Lord Warden. Many of her friends have said that within her sense of fun, there was a ring of steel. So it was with her association with us. In her enjoyment of her annual cinque ports picnic, there was a sterner association. We have always been the front line in a purpose to which she gave vital years of her life—the defence of our realm.

The next duties of the barons will be a sad one, but in attending the funeral service next Tuesday, they will represent the affections of the people of the cinque ports towns and their pride in their association with this woman of duty.

12.43 pm

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): I want to speak only briefly as the House this day records its tributes to Queen Elizabeth. To my eternal good fortune, I had the great privilege and joy of knowing Her Majesty for a little over 40 years.

I want to testify to the oneness of Her Majesty's character. Whoever people were, whatever their age, whatever they did or wherever they came from, the Queen Mother was always the same to everyone. Her completely natural personality and her sparkling wit and charm truly put all who met her at their ease.

As the Prince of Wales said two nights ago in his most moving tribute to his grandmother, she was indeed indomitable, tireless, wise and loving, with a unique natural grace and understanding of the British character. She had, as well, an infectious optimism—just as well, given her love of national hunt racing—and was one of those rare people able to span the generations.

What a life it was—born in the reign of Queen Victoria, the Queen Mother was married to the last King Emperor and was the first non-royal Queen Consort since Catherine Parr in the 16th century. She lived in two centuries and through two fearful wars, in the first of which she lost her brother, Fergus Bowes Lyon, an officer of the Black Watch, at the battle of Loos in 1915. That event marked her for the rest of her life.

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It was the telescope of history that gave the Queen Mother such perception, wisdom and experience. She lived in the reigns of six monarchs and through a period of the most profound social, technological and economic change. Yet she never lost her bearings, fortified and sustained as she was by the discipline of her Christian faith and by her strong principles. She wrote, in the foreword to "An Anthology of Assurance", a book by Lady Elizabeth Basset, one of her ladies in waiting:

That was the Queen Mother.

The Queen Mother's affection, admiration and respect for the armed forces, and her robust defence of all military traditions, bound her closely to all three services, particularly to their old comrades. She caused me some testing moments when I was Minister of State for the Armed Forces when she kindly, but very firmly, let me know, in no uncertain manner, of her concern about or even disapproval of some cut or amalgamation proposed by the wicked Government.

The Queen Mother's loyalty towards and support for all her regiments, and her naval and air force affiliations, were, and will remain, of the most profound importance and encouragement to all who deeply value and cherish an historic connection of which they will for ever be extremely proud.

Queen Elizabeth loved life, but she was also a symbol, for all generations, of courage and endurance in peace and war, of truth and gentleness and constancy to duty. In Kipling's words, she did indeed walk with Kings, but yet retained the common touch. With her passing, someone very special, splendid and unique has gone out of all our lives for ever. Truly, it can be said of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother that we shall never see her like again.

Rest eternal grant her, and may light perpetual shine upon her.

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