Read my tribute the Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
It was the Proclamation in Preston on the Sunday that really brought home the death of Her Late Majesty. Thousands had gathered in front of the Harris Museum, as well as the great and the good of the county from the Lord Lieutenant downwards were arrayed on the portico in all their ceremonial finery. And God Save the King was sung as everyone made a conscious effort for the first time to say ‘king’ and not ‘queen’. The Proclamation was subsequently repeated in both Blackpool and Wyre by the Mayors, the anthem sung once more at memorial services across the constituency which I attended, and many, many books of condolence were opened for people to record their thoughts.
And we have seen more written and said about Her Late Majesty’s seventy years on the throne and 96 years of long life, I am not sure there is much more that I can usefully add without repeating everything else.
I participated in the official Parliamentary Tributes to the Queen on behalf of constituents on the Saturday evening, and you can watch that contribution at: [link removed]
But maybe some personal perspectives and an eye cast to the future.
All have commented that Her Late Majesty has been a permanent presence in the lives of all but her oldest subjects. When she ascended the throne in 1953, there was still rationing – it seems deeply ironic some are warning of energy rationing this winter.
Duty has perhaps become unfashionable these days – though we need only look at the praise accorded to those who returned from active service in Afghanistan to act as pallbearers. Durability, constancy, patience – all values I wish we could also rediscover. None of these values can be captured on the TikTok app I keep being told I ought to be acquiring followers on.
Continuity amidst change, rather than responding to the latest fad, was Her Majesty’s hallmark. One of my favourite historians is David Kynaston who wrote the following in his magnificent history of Britain in the 1950s. I think it worth citing in full, if only to show what a changed world the new King inherits:
“A land of orderly queues, hat-doffing men walking on the outside, seats given up to the elderly, no swearing in front of the women and children, censored books, censored plays, infinite repression of desires. Divorce for most an unthinkable social disgrace, marriage too often a lifetime sentence. Even the happier marriages seldom companionable, with husbands and wives living in separate, self-contained spheres, the husband often not telling the wife how much he had earned … Children in the street ticked off by strangers, children in the street kept an eye on by strangers, children at home rarely consulted, children stopping being children when they left school at 14 and got a job. A land of hierarchical social assumptions, of accent and dress as giveaways to class, of Irish jokes and casual derogatory references … Expectations low and limited but anyone in or on the fringes of the middle class hoping for a job for life and comforted by the myth that the working class kept their coal in the
bath. A pride in Britain, which had stood alone, a pride even in ‘Made in Britain’. A deep satisfaction with our own idiosyncratic, non-metric units of distance, weight, temperature, money ... A sense of history, however nugatory the knowledge of that history. A land in which authority was respected? Or rather, accepted? Yes, perhaps the latter, co-existing with the necessary safety valve of copious everyday grumbling. A land of domestic hobbies and domestic pets … Turning the cuffs, elbow patches on jackets, sheets sides to middle.”.
Perhaps the most striking contradiction I came upon was that in 1953, meals on trays were for invalids, not families. This is not to say 1953 is any better than 2022, or any worse just different.
So what is her legacy? What will remain as the sound of trumpets fades away? A kinder, gentler Britain? I sadly doubt it, as memories are short. Political hostilities have resumed with gusto and no less volcanic in tone.
Let me make a suggestion. The Queen’s life was undoubtedly one of dutiful service, and maybe the best legacy is to amplify and extend that example of service.
Thousands upon thousands of individuals have been recognised down the years with MBEs, OBEs and BEMs and more besides across the Fylde Coast. These are all worthy recipients and deserve such recognition.
Less attention is paid to the equally worthy recipients of the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, which is the ‘equivalent’ award for voluntary groups, but seems to get less attention. I have been pleased to nominate numerous worthy organisations locally who have taken great pride, and been inspired to greater efforts.
A focus on individual voluntary contribution, and a redoubling of commitment to volunteering, would seem to be a fitting tribute. I am aware we have been here before. The ‘Big Society’ was a bit too nebulous, and was overshadowed by the idea it was about volunteers saving the state money, rather than adding to what the state does.
But Covid showed the immense impulse to community service in the face of great need – from those shopping on behalf of others, to those stewarding the vaccination centres. Natural disasters sees aid flood in to local areas. We face great pressures right now – an NHS where volunteers matter more than ever, and where auxiliary helpers fill a vital role.
A semi-structured, locally-based cohort of flexible volunteers of all ages – a Queen Elizabeth Corps – might just be a fitting tribute to continue to her example of service.
Paul Maynard MP
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