Diamond Jubilee

On Tuesday, I was privileged to attend The Queen's address to both Houses of Parliament, marking her Diamond Jubilee.  It was the first address by The Queen in Westminster Hall since her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and the sixth of her reign.

Indeed, I reflected that the Queen came to the throne, and first travelled to Westminster as sovereign for the State opening of Parliament, more than a decade before I was born.

Westminster Hall, the oldest building in the Palace of Westminster, has been hosting royal occasions for over 900 years, not all of them such happy ones for the monarch.  This week's ceremony itself was brief but, beneath the pomp, the historical significance was undeniable.

In 1897, when Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee - the only other monarch to have done so - the much frailer sovereign could not make the short journey to Westminster.  Instead, the members of the House of Commons and House of Lords were summoned to Buckingham Palace to be addressed there.

Our Queen today caused much amusement when she noted in her speech that she had been served by 12 Prime Ministers and had signed over 3,500 Bills into law.

As we left the Hall, a fellow MP remarked to me that The Queen is "without doubt the most significant person in the world".  Who, after all, can contend with her?

Indeed, about a third of the world's population live in countries that are members of the Commonwealth - an organisation that is one of the supreme achievement's of The Queen's reign, and which is bound by huge respect and admiration for its Head.

The Queen told us that, while she and Prince Philip will tour this country to mark the Jubilee, Prince Charles and other members of the Royal Family will be leading visits to every part of the Commonwealth.  It was heartening to see what a hit Prince Harry was on his visit to some of those countries last week, and how naturally the Princes are taking to their role.

As The Queen rededicated herself to the service of our country, and the National Anthem played, I cannot have been the only one who thought ‘Long to reign over us'.

Christopher N Howarth