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Joan Seccombe – 2022 Tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II (Baroness Seccombe)

The tribute made by Joan Seccombe, Baroness Seccombe, in the House of Lords on 10 September 2022.

My Lords, in wartime, life was grim, with sadness all around. There was no TV, but a radio, which I was told to sit and listen to for the main evening news. I know many parents tussled with whether they should send their children abroad, but many followed the example of the King and Queen and kept the family together here at home in England. I think that this devotion of the King inspired his daughter to understand the suffering of others by being among them.

As this cruel war churned on, I found great enjoyment from watching the two princesses’ activities. I joined the school Sea Rangers, although you could not live further away from the sea then I did. We learned to march, and I love marching. My earliest sight of the Queen was when she stood in an upper window as Princess Elizabeth with her sister beside her as we marched in wonder in front of Buckingham Palace. I watched the Queen as she grew into this lovely young woman we came to know and love.

The declaration that she made on her 21st birthday moved me enormously, as she dedicated her life to us and all the people of the Empire. It was made with such devotion and humility. I have often thought that she must, like any other, have had an off day, but that sense of duty always came through. She carried on and nobody was aware of how she felt.

Many years later, as I followed her ups and downs of family life, I marvelled at her strength. She and other women blazed the trail for women to hold the most senior roles in society in addition to family responsibilities.

In 2004, it was a huge honour for me to be appointed an extra Baroness-in-Waiting—a pinch-my-skin moment as I drove into Buckingham Palace. Having an audience with Her Majesty was such a privilege. She immediately put me at ease as we chatted and, to my amazement, I suddenly said, “Ma’am, may I share a secret with you?”. “Oh, yes please”, she said, “I love secrets.” And there it will remain between us. As the time came to an end, she wished me well and said that she hoped I would not spend too much time waiting for planes to arrive and depart.

I loved every trip I made to airports to welcome and see departing Heads of State on her behalf, and I shall always be grateful for the opportunity I had. Without fail, the visitors said that the time they were to spend or had spent with the Queen would be or had been the highlight of their visit.

These final months without the support of her dear husband, His Royal Highness Prince Philip, must have been more onerous and lonelier as she continued her busy schedule, having recovered from Covid. She has, throughout my life, been there with her dazzling smile, so much loved and respected throughout the world. She prepared us for her eldest son to become Charles III, and I am sure she would approve of us giving him a hearty welcome. God save the King!