Most Gracious Sovereign,
We Your faithful Commons are honoured to be here to commemorate and celebrate the sixty years of Your reign. We too are pleased to have contributed to the Jubilee Window to be revealed shortly and which will mark this occasion permanently. Time is better preserved in this historic place than in fallible human memory.
Time also tells its own story. Sixty years ago, rationing meant rather more than a short wait before the arrival of the latest electronic item. Sixty years ago, Britain had just emerged from a war of an intensity never seen before or since and had slipped into the shadow of the Korean conflict. Sixty years ago, a new “Elizabethan Era” was awaited with enthusiasm tinged with uncertainty about the challenges ahead for the country.
If, as Gandhi asserted, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”, then Your Majesty must have found Yourself countless times over the past six decades. You have dedicated Your life to others. The daily example that You set, mirrored by our courageous armed forces of which You are Commander-in-Chief, is extraordinary. Yet perhaps Your Majesty’s most profound contribution has been to the continuity that has made change manageable.
For transformation is inevitably turbulent. It has been Your singular accomplishment, Your unique capacity, to hold together that which could have been torn asunder. You have moved with the times and allowed the times to move around the rest of society.
This is a different Britain from 1952 but not one detached from then. We are in so many ways a much bigger, brighter and better United Kingdom. This is a land where men and women today are equal under the law and where Your people are respected, regardless of how they live, how they look or how they love. This is a nation of many races, faiths and customs, now beginning to be reflected in Parliament. All this progress has occurred during Your reign. You have become, to many of us, a kaleidoscope Queen of a kaleidoscope country in a kaleidoscope Commonwealth.
This gathering is one of many diverse events across these islands in tribute to You and this great anniversary. Our affection as a nation will rightly embrace the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of Your family. These will be moments striking for the sincerity expressed as much as for the scenery encountered. Sixty years of stability. Sixty years of security. Sixty years of certainty. Sixty years of sacrifice. Sixty years of service.
Gandhi also observed that “in a gentle way, you can shake the world”. Your Majesty, in a gentle way You have shaken this United Kingdom and the world for six decades. On behalf of all the members of the House of Commons, may I thank You wholeheartedly for all that You have done, are doing and will do for the good of our country.
Image: Parliamentary Copyright