ParliamentRoyal FamilySpeeches

John Whittingdale – 2022 Tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

The tribute made by John Whittingdale, the Conservative MP for Maldon, in the House of Commons on 10 September 2022.

It is a privilege to join hon. Members in paying tribute to Her late Majesty, not just on my own behalf, but on behalf of all the people of the Maldon constituency. Many fine tributes have been given yesterday and today, and many hon. Members have spoken of Her late Majesty’s dedication, commitment, remarkable sense of duty, and lifetime of service, which was always performed with dignity, compassion and kindness. I echo all those sentiments.

It has been an extraordinary week, starting with the appointment of a new Prime Minister and ending with the accession of a new sovereign. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I am sure she will be grateful that her first audience with the monarch was with Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth. I am sure that His Majesty King Charles will continue to provide advice and counsel, but my right hon. Friend must be sad that she will not benefit from the extraordinary wisdom and experience that Her late Majesty shared in advising 15 successive Prime Ministers.

Before entering the House, I worked for one of those Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher. She used to fix in her diary—the only immutable engagement in 11 years—the weekly audience with Her Majesty. I suspect that there were, occasionally, some quite robust discussions—she never spoke of what was said—but I know that she immensely valued the experience of Her late Majesty and was hugely honoured when Her late Majesty attended her 70th birthday party.

A number of hon. Members have spoken about how they are asked in primary schools whether they have met the Queen, and I have had exactly the same experience, but I have also been struck on international visits when many parliamentarians from across the world have spoken of their admiration of the Queen and have envied the fact that we have benefited from having her as our sovereign. We have seen that in the global tributes, with Union Jacks and the red, white and blue across America and Brazil; the extraordinary display on Sydney opera house yesterday; and the words of the President of France—a country that has not always had great relations with the British monarch—who said:

“To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was the Queen.”

Like many right hon. Members, I benefited from meeting the Queen as a member of the Privy Council, and I had the good fortune to accompany her to the Cenotaph on one occasion, which is one of the roles of what was then the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. It was her two visits to Maldon, however, that my constituents will always value. The first visit was in 1971 to mark the 800th anniversary of the award of the charter to Maldon by Henry II. I was privileged to take part in the second visit in 2010, when the Queen visited Maldon Salt before walking down the high street to have lunch in the town hall. On that day, it seemed that the whole town turned out to celebrate her visit. Today, the whole town, indeed the whole of my constituency, is once again united in mourning the passage of Her late Majesty and in pledging allegiance to King Charles III.