James with representatives of 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards during a Welcome Home Event for 20th Armoured Brigade
James Gray MP welcoming representatives of 20th Armoured Brigade to Parliament
James Gray MP with representatives from Google and The Countryside Alliance Foundation
James at The Springfields Academy
“God bless our Meal; God guide our ways. God give us peace, Our Lord to praise. And ever keep in health serene, Elizabeth our Gracious Queen.’ So goes one of my favourite graces – handed down as you may have guessed since the days of Elizabeth I.
Elizabeth the magnificent Virgin Queen. Gloriana. Good Queen Bess. The brilliant first Elizabethan Era (although she reigned for a paltry 45 years!). Yet what makes us different in England is our modest understatement. Both Queen Elizabeths have done superb service to this great country of ours. But they would be the last to brag about it. Indeed one of Elizabeth I’s favourite mottoes (which would apply equally easily to our own beloved Queen) was ‘video et taceo’ (I see, and say nothing.’)
So the watchword of the great community celebrations which we have planned for this weekend is not magnificent pageantry (although there has been a fair bit of that too.) It is not pomposity and grandiosity. It is not egotistical self-adulation in which other countries might well indulge themselves. No - it’s all about celebrating all that is best in British culture – community, mutual help, respect for our great and ancient institutions. And it’s about just having a jolly good time in fine weather in the glorious English countryside. It’s about street parties and bunting; the largest Union Flag I have ever seen on the Royal Wootton Bassett Town Hall; it’s about childrens’ fancy dress and face painting, fundraising for good causes, tug of war, splat the rat and morris dancers; barbeques and village youths with too much cider inside of them. And I hope that we all have a thoroughly enjoyable time too.
The same could be said about the Olympic preparations, which are almost becoming merged with the Diamond Jubilee. It’s not that we want to win loads of medals (although I very much hope that we do.) It’s the taking part that counts. It’s the mere fact that we are having the games in England - for only the third time in a century, and that we are unlikely to see the torch running thorough our High Streets ever again in our lifetimes. (I got a real thrill just handling a torch at the Jenner Hall Fayre in Cricklade on Saturday.)
But maybe - just maybe – the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics are symbolic of something bigger – that we here in Great Britain have a great deal to offer the world. Times are hard everywhere and many of us are terribly worried about what the future holds nationally and internationally. So let us use these glory days of celebration to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are by comparison with so many parts of the world; to celebrate our excellence in culture, history and constitution; and to be thankful that despite ‘austerity’ we by and large have enough to eat.
This is indeed a second Glorious Elizabethan Age. Let us celebrate it and be thankful for it. Ours is a truly Great nation. Let us rejoice and be glad of it.
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