As someone with the honour of representing the faithful city of Worcester, I want to pass on the love, prayers and good wishes of constituents and faith and civic leaders to all the royal family, especially His Majesty the King, at this sad historic moment. I can associate myself with the remarks containing so many superlatives that we have heard from across the House today, but I want to focus on two things: Her Majesty’s faith and her profound connection with children, which the hon. Member for Llanelli (Dame Nia Griffith) spoke about.
Her late Majesty swore at her coronation to be a defender of the faith. In so many messages over the decades, she not only defended but enhanced and gently protected the role of faith in our society, not only for her own Church of England but, as we have heard from people of all faiths and denominations, for people across the whole United Kingdom of all faiths and none.
When Princess Elizabeth first visited Worcester in 1951, she was already the mother of two small children, and the beautiful princess was greeted by flower girls and a parade of Scouts and Guides outside the cathedral. As a lifelong patron of the Guides and a former Girl Guide herself, as well as the fount of so many Queen’s Scout awards, she has inspired millions of young people.
She returned as Queen in 1957 and visited New Road, the most beautiful cricket ground in England, with her consort Prince Philip, touring the boundary in an open top Land Rover to the cheers of 5,000 local schoolchildren. After more visits in the 1980s when she distributed Maundy money and celebrated the anniversary of the city’s charter, her final visit to Worcester and the proudest moment of my life was at her diamond jubilee. Her Majesty opened the Hive library, a joint city and university library that is the first of its kind in Europe and a fabulous repository of children’s books. I was fortunate enough to be in the welcoming party for that visit, and to join some wonderful volunteers from local charities and children from local schools at the event and in being presented to Her Majesty the Queen. What struck me, as so many have already reported, was her smile, her bright humorous eyes, her genuine interest in the people to whom she was introduced and the instant connection she formed with children.
Most recently, children in schools up and down our country were able to celebrate and learn about our Her Majesty at her remarkable platinum jubilee. They joined children from successive generations in singing, dancing and making wonderful art to celebrate a jubilee of this longest serving sovereign. She was described by one of our former Prime Ministers as a matriarch, and of course that is right, but I think we have also lost the world’s favourite granny.
I join my right hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson) and Paddington Bear in simply saying on behalf of us all, “Thank you, Ma’am, for everything”.