Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine): I rise to support the Humble Address, given the strong contacts between my constituency and Her Majesty the Queen Mother, and her long association with it since her honeymoon as Duchess of York in Birkhall, part of the royal estate of Balmoral. The association spans much of her life and many of her summers. When she was not at the Castle of Mey she would move south to Birkhall and join the rest of the royal family in Deeside. In the north-east of Scotland, we almost take it for granted that the royal family are part of the fabric of our society, and as a result their time at Balmoral is free of intrusion. It is a chance for them to get away from the glare of publicity and enjoy a true family life.
The Queen Mother in particular will be much missed. It was welcome news when it was announced today that shops and businesses that had received warrants as a result of her patronage over the years could keep them for the next five years to maintain her connection with the community.
The Queen Mother's last official public engagement in Scotland was to another part of my constituency. In Alford, which has a long association with the Aberdeen Angus breed, the Queen Motherwho, as has been said, was a keen breeder of Aberdeen Angus cattlejoined her grandson at the unveiling of a statue to mark that connection. It was a time when the rural community was under much stress as a result of foot and mouth disease, and she spent over 40 minutes on her feet, mingling with several hundred people, making it something of a joyous occasion and bringing some light into a very dark year in the farming and rural communities.
A few days later, the Queen Mother's last public appearance in Scotland was at the Craithie Opportunity Holidays site, opposite Balmoral, where holiday homes are being built for people with mobility difficulties. She quipped that she hoped to return this year and enjoy one of the homes. Obviously she will not be able to do so in person, but I am sure that she will in spirit.
Her Majesty made a great contribution to the century. We can pay one of the most lasting tributes to her, and in a way keep her alive, by acknowledging that she symbolises for us, in the public policy sphere and as individuals, the fact that no one is ever too old to make a public contribution. If we can remember that, no matter what age someone is, they are an individual who has something still to contribute, and if individuals can remember that, whatever age they are, they have something to contribute, she will have left a lasting legacy for us all.
Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher and Walton): In supporting the Humble Address, I share the solemnity that has fallen on the House. As I listened to all the tributes, however, I found that the vitality of Her Majesty the Queen Mother came through. The twinkle in her eye came through in every anecdote.
My own experience with the Queen Mother came during two different aspects of my life. First, as a governor for a while of Research into Ageing, a charity that tried to extend the quality of active life, I once remarked that if we could bottle up the elixir of life represented by Queen Elizabeth we would have solved
However, my principal reason for intervening in this debate on the Humble Address is that I am the Member of Parliament for Sandown Parkor, at least, I think that the Queen Mother thought that I was, given the number of times that we met there. Sandown Park, in her own words, was her favourite race course, and Sandown Park really loved the Queen Mother. When she moved from the president's box to award the trophy to the winning jockey and owners, she always made time to speak to everyone and regularly received spontaneous applause. Quite often, the Leader of the House, who may not have had as many winners at Sandown Park as the Queen Mother, although I am sure that he tipped as many, joined in that applause. She was spontaneously popular with everyone, from all walks of life, who attended Sandown Park. It was the race course on which she had 79 winners over the years. She won the Whitbread gold cup with Special Cargo in 1984 and another big race two years later. There was a special relationship between the two, but she could be quite a hard taskmaster.
On one occasion, we were lunching at a Whitbread gold cup meeting. Anyone who knows Sandown Park will know that the wind whips across from the reservoirs into the stands, and it can be very cold, even though the meeting takes place on the last weekend in April. On that occasion I had enjoyed a hearty lunch and the first race was about to start. I was told that I would have the honour of sitting first with the Queen Mother out in the open, so I started to reach for my very heavy overcoat when the lady-in-waiting looked at me with one of those looks that ladies-in-waiting give when someone is about to do something that is not right. I noticed that the Queen Mother was dressed in a summer frock and was on her way out. We sat through that race and every jockey, every horse and every bit of history was recounted with an absolutely crisp memory and precision. I must have increasingly sounded as though I was dumb, not just because I did not have as much knowledge of racing as the Queen Mother, but because I was absolutely frozen to the marrow. She showed no signs of that at all. I do not know whether that was because of the Castle of Mey or the other Scottish houses that she inhabited. However, standing up to go back inside was quite an effort on my part, but it seemed to have no effect on the Queen Mother.
The Queen Mother's character was such that no one was immobile or too worried to do things when she was present. She sparked a vitality into the company that she kept; that was very much part of her own character, which she shared with others. Those at Sandown Park will long remember her. There is a wonderful equestrian statue of Special Cargo at Sandown Parkthe Queen Mother's spirit will always be beside it.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): There can be no greater or more fitting tribute to the brilliant life of Her Majesty the Queen Mother than we have heard in the House today. In adding my support for the Humble Address, I speak not just for myself and my constituents,
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association would like to express its most profound sympathies on the death of Her Majesty the Queen Mother. She did not just belong to this country, but was loved and respected throughout the entire Commonwealth, where she travelled extensively. She represented the finest traditions of the monarchy and was noted for her extraordinary warmth and affection by peoples of all nations. She is especially remembered by Commonwealth parliamentarians for her official opening of the 30th parliamentary conference, held in 1984 on the Isle of Man. The warmth with which she greeted members of the association made a lasting impression on all who attended, and she brought to the conference an air of grace, majesty and gentleness that was an inspiration to the parliamentarians who came to the Isle of Man and all the Manx people who lined the route to see her. The association was honoured by her presence and is deeply saddened by her passing.
The Queen Mother is, in death as she was in life, an abiding symbol of all that is good in our world. Her unselfish devotion to duty and country, the depth of her love for her family and her unfailing sense of humour are her legacy to us all.
It is hard to find words that are truly fitting, but Milton wrote many of his beautiful poems in my constituency, so it is to his words that I turn to pay my tribute. They come not as hon. Members may imagine from "Paradise Lost", but from "Arcades"a verse of which she could so easily have been the subject. He wrote:
In circle round her shining throne,
Shooting her beams like silver threads,
This, this is she alone,
Sitting like a Goddess bright,
In the center of her light.
David Burnside (South Antrim): In supporting the Humble Address, I wish to recall a day in 1985 that I will never forget. It was always easy to remember the Queen Mother's age, so Sir John King, the then chairman of British Airways, wondered in late 1984 what could be done for her 85th birthday. A message was sent to Clarence house to ask her what she would like for her birthday and the reply came back that she would like to fly on Concorde, because she wanted a bit of excitement.
A flight on Concorde was arranged and the Queen Mother came to Heathrow dressed in her normal pastel shades. She was wearing, I think, light blue, four-inch heelsI am told that they cannot go much higherand a large hat. She sat in seat 1A, and she had been asked whether she had any special requirements for the flight. A copy of the Sporting Life was ordered, and not for a casual read on the flight but to make contact with the ground so that she could invest in the horse racing business. She did that from the flight deck.
The Queen Mother had a very fine lunch, and was invited to the flight deck. Concorde is very small, with a three-man flight deck for the captain, first officer and engineer and with a little jump seat behind the captain. She sat on the jump seat still wearing her hat, which was about half the width of the flight deck, and we flew over the Irish sea. The route had been worked out with the Queen Mother, and we flew over the Castle of Mey. That is what she wanted for her 85th birthday.
The 100-seater aircraft was filled with representatives of civic and business life from all round the United Kingdom and it flew back south to Heathrow. The Queen Mother had been briefed beforehand on who was who so that they could be introduced to her. As a director of the company, I lucky enough to be sitting in about row 8 and Sir John King introduced me as David Burnside, the director of public affairs. She said, "From Northern Ireland. I pray for Northern Ireland every night." I have never said that publicly before but the House and the people of Northern Ireland would appreciate knowing what she said. We have lost a great lady.