I know that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the Queen Mother who, for almost a century, was part of our lives, inspired our country, aroused its respect and affection, and for whose service and life we give our most profound thanks.
Part of the fascination with the Queen Mother was undoubtedly the sheer span of history that she encompassed, not just the great events of the 20th centuryits wars, the ideologies that came and wentbut its technological and scientific discoveries and its vastly changing culture. No doubt 1801 was very different from 1701, but 2001, compared with 1901, seems an historic age apart, and yet she saw and experienced it all.
The Queen Mother was born during the Boer war in an era virtually free from the motor car, a time when, she once remembered, a dairy man still often stood with his cow, selling milk near the gates of Buckingham palace. Yet at the end of her life, thousands of people sent e-mails of condolence to the royal website.
During that long life, the Titanic sailed and sank when she was 11; the first world war broke out on her 14th birthday and her first child was born in 1926, the year that television was invented; she was the last Empress of India; in 1986, she became the oldest person to bear the title of Queen in the history of the British monarchy; and, in all, she saw 20 different Prime
Undoubtedly this long perspective brought stability to the monarchy and to the country, but the respect that the Queen Mother received and the outpouring of affection accorded her death are not the result simply, or even principally, of her long life. She could have lived for more than 100 years and made little mark. The tributes could have been a ritual, but they were not. They were genuine and heartfelt, from young and old, all classes, all backgrounds and all walks of life. That was because of the person that she was, not the rank that she held. The Queen Mother came to embody what was best about our past and makes us most optimistic about our future.
The Queen Mother never expected to become Queen, despite, as a child, being told by a fortune teller that she would be. It was only after the abdication of King Edward VIII that her husband became King George VI. In 1936, during the abdication crisis, she wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury:
The second world war was to prove that fate had chosen well for Britain. Hitler, it is said, watching a newsreel clip of Queen Elizabeth laying a poppy at a first world war memorial and noticing her poise and spirit, dubbed her the most dangerous woman in Europeat least for him. King George and Queen Elizabeth rallied the nation magnificently during the second world war's worst hours and days. Her refusal to leave London is now legendary. A clue to why she refused can be found in what she wrote after visiting the east end:
The Queen Mother was a unifying figure because she personified the diversity and unity of Britain and the Commonwealth. She considered herself a Scot, and was proud of it. A descendant of Scottish royalty, she spent a lot of time from an early age at her family's estates in Scotland. She was never happier than when at her home, the Castle of Mey in Caithness, or fly fishing in Scotland's rivers. During a visit to South Africa in 1946, she met an old Boer veteran who told her bitterly:
We should remember the Queen Mother for her great sense of fun and her zest for life. Her enthusiasm and humour shone through in all that she did, whether it was handing out shamrocks to the Irish Guards on St. Patrick's day, inspecting the Chelsea pensioners or indulging her lifelong and very serious passion for horse racing. Her infectious sense of fun could charm even opponents. The veteran anti-monarchist and former Member of Parliament, Willie Hamilton, said, on her 80th birthday:
We have seen in the many moving and memorable tributes paid to the Queen Mother the recurring themes of her love of life, her warmth and humour, her love of country and, above all, her devotion to duty. It is the belief in duty that best captures her spirit, yet it was not duty in an arid or formal sense. She enjoyed life, lived it and loved it to the full. She showed, however, how it could be lived and loved while not for one moment compromising her commitment to duty. It is that combination of high integrity and simple humanity that made her not just respected but loved. There is nothing false or complicated about the public response to her death. It is the simplest of equations: she loved her country and in turn her country loved her. For that, and for her long life of service and devotion, we earnestly give our thanks and praise.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): In supporting the Humble Address, all Opposition Members concur entirely with the tribute that the Prime Minister paid to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. As he said, our thoughts and prayers are with her Majesty the Queen and the royal family, particularly because in this, her golden jubilee year, Her Majesty has had to suffer the death of her sister and now her mother within a matter of weeksa personal tragedy.
We often tend to think of great figures in our history as being victorious generals, influential thinkers or inspiring national leaders. The Queen Mother's great contribution to our nation was different and special. She did not lead military campaigns, inspire through speeches or transform the nation directly, but by standing resolute in the face of danger beside her husband the King and her country, and by providing a loving family in which her children and grandchildren could grow up, she made a contribution that was no less enduring. In this, the Queen Mother shared the attitude of millions of British soldiers, public servants and private citizens whose service to future generations is given through individual lives of courage, love and devotion. When her country needed it most, she gave her inner strength and her wonderful personality. In doing so, she embodied what is good and noble about the people of our country.
During that century, the Queen Mother personally also had to suffer the early loss of a much-loved brother and of a husband worn down, perhaps, by responsibilities that were unexpected. From the Queen Mother we learn that character and inner strength can be a formidable anchor during times of change and upheaval. She felt no need to trim to the prevailing winds of fad and fashion; instead she stayed true to herself. Yet she never seemed anachronistic or, less still, out of touchour memory of her has a timeless quality.
The Queen Mother's strength was that she brought to her public duties the same enjoyment with which she practised her private enthusiasms. She rejoiced in the company of young people. She was devoted to her regiments, passionate about her sporting interestsfrom fishing to racingand brought energy to all the causes with which she was associated.
I first heard of the death of the Queen Mother when I was fishing on a Scottish loch on Saturday. It struck me at the time that she might well have approved of such a way of spending a Saturday afternoon. My first reaction was sadness, but as I thought more it turned to gratitude, for the Queen Mother's life was long, well lived and for the benefit of many. She was, frankly, the best of us.
Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family should know that all of us in the House and in the country share their sadness, but that our sadness is balanced with pride. We are proud to have shared in the life of this deeply loved and remarkable lady.