Dr Julian Lewis: Towards the end of yesterday’s proceedings, participants were encouraged to avoid repeating the points of their predecessors. That is no easy task when such unanimity prevails. Some Members of this House clearly had far more contact with Her Majesty than others. Yet, it is natural that so many of us wish to record our tributes to the outstanding monarch of the modern age – not simply for ourselves but on behalf of tens of thousands of constituents who also adored her.
One reason for that adoration was the Queen’s accessibility. The Lymington Times has helpfully listed four notable visits she paid to our part of Hampshire, including in 1979 to mark the 900th anniversary of the New Forest and in 2012 as part of her diamond jubilee tour. Multiply those visits by well over 600 constituencies and the scale of her efforts, on visits alone, is colossal. New Forest East was formed before the 1997 general election and, as its first MP, I described to the House how even so beautiful an area had been touched and toughened by the impact of war. Princess Elizabeth’s formative years were similarly shaped and strengthened by that ordeal. Her family’s involvement with the services, already so strong, could only increase. While others directed the operations of the military, the allegiance of those forces was to her and her alone. This is more than symbolic: it is an essential guarantee of the constitutional independence of the military.
I am very fortunate to represent so many people with past, present or potential service in the armed forces of the Crown. One such constituent – my partner’s father – received his Distinguished Flying Cross from the hands of the Queen as long ago as 1955 during the Malayan emergency. He was struck by the depth of her knowledge even then: it went far beyond the formalities of an investiture. We can truly be thankful that, at the top of society, she chose to be its servant. She adapted to change, yet always seemed the same. She did her duty unfailingly and was, in short, an inspiration to the nation.