Your Majesties, my Lords, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
First, I would like to thank Your Majesty for your words about the strong relationship which our two countries enjoy. It is an honour to welcome you both here today.
This Royal Gallery is the frame for one of the most colourful days in our Parliamentary calendar; the State Opening of Parliament. I know that you have a very similar ceremony in The Hague. It is yet another example of our common history and traditions. Traditions are an important thread in the tapestry which is our national story, but we share something far more fundamental.
We are both long-established Parliamentary democracies. The stability this has brought our two countries is something we cherish and in today’s world this stability should not be taken for granted.
The close relations between our two countries continue, not only in a general sense but in a very personal sense as your friendship with Her Majesty the Queen shows. Indeed, your Majesty, I am informed by one newspaper that you are 889th in the of succession to the British throne – 889th! But I am afraid I have bad news. With the birth of the child of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex you will be plunged to 890.
But in all seriousness, we welcome you here to the United Kingdom and here to Parliament.
We had rather hoped you would have arrived yesterday piloting your own plane. There are not many monarchs today who have a licence to fly a commercial airliner. I can say with absolute sincerity that I would not trust any of my colleagues to take the controls of an airbus – not even Black Rod!
We also very much welcome Her Majesty Queen Máxima and say how much we admire the way she is working worldwide to make financial services available to all including low-income groups and small business owners.
Your Majesty, you spoke of the link between our two nations. There is a large Dutch community here in the United Kingdom and there are many British citizens living in The Netherlands. That is a relationship which will continue whatever the political changes. We co-operate on defence and security matters and we work very closely in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. Trade between our two countries is healthy, our economic ties are strong.
Looking around this Gallery, we see paintings of some of the Kings and Queens who have ruled our land over the centuries. Including, of course, William III.
One bishop at the time wrote that William spoke “little and slowly but with a dryness”. A bishop! But I am glad to say that a recent historical profile counted him as one of Britain’s greatest but least known monarchs.
This year we celebrate the 330th anniversary of the Glorious Revolution. The arrival of William and Mary on these shores marked the beginning of a new age and in February 1688 they were declared King and Queen by Parliament here in Westminster. The Bill of Rights which was drawn up the following year is something we hold very dear. For the first time, the monarch could not set aside or dispense with laws without parliamentary approval. Perhaps the seventeenth century equivalent of the meaningful vote! Today that constitutional settlement still underpins our parliamentary democracy and our commitment to free speech.
I should also point out that King William II of the Netherlands fought at Waterloo, a battle also depicted here in this room. He was just 23 at the time and I should add, most importantly, that he was on our side!
Your Majesty, our relationship should not simply be confined to the history books; our past should speak to our future. We are leaving the European Union, but our friendship and our strong alliance will continue. We are not turning our back on Europe and we are certainly not turning our back on The Netherlands. We sit together on the UN Security Council, we are both founding members of NATO and our economic partnership will continue. These ties will not be broken.
Your Majesties, it is a great honour to have you with us today. Your presence speaks of a deep relationship, a relationship with deep historical roots and a bright future and I would like to end with an attempt at a cry you should be familiar with (and you must excuse my Dutch):
“Leve de Koning! Hoera! Hoera! Hoera!”