Weekly Column

God Save the King

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The House of Commons is at its very best for great State occasions. The tributes paid to Her Late Majesty on Friday were outstanding. The new PM Liz Truss, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan-Smith all spoke brilliantly, as did The Father of the House, Harriet Harman, Margaret Beckett, and so many others. I sat there mesmerised for three hours and then tucked my own planned meagre offering away in my pocket. It would have been about the Late Queen as Head of our Armed Forces; but by then everything that was worth saying had been said by others; and repeating it would have made it about me rather than about Her Majesty.The Universal- and very genuine - outpouring of grief shows what a magnificent woman she was- loved by people of every kind, and across the Globe. The thousands of people thronging Buckingham Palace, the wall to wall media, the books of condolence; that simply moving and sincere address to the Nation by the new King. We have never seen anything like it. That is why ceremonial and symbolism are so important. The immaculate and ancient ceremony of Proclamation of the new King in St James’s Palace, and all the forthcoming events in the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey encapsulate and express our feelings in a way that we could not. These dignified procedures stand proxy for our deeply held emotions.Meanwhile Philippa represented me at two very sad funerals in Wiltshire - The Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire’s great service in Malmesbury Abbey; and the desperately sad memorial for 30-year-old Miranda Filmer from Minety. We are sad at the passing of Her Majesty and of Lord Suffolk; but we are heartbroken at the needlessly young death of Miranda from cancer. She had so much ahead of her, so much to look forward to, cruelly snatched away.Now I am so much looking forward to the Her Majesty’s Memorial Service in Malmesbury Abbey on Sunday; to the High Sheriff of Wiltshire, the Marchioness of Lansdowne repeating the proclamation of the new King on the steps of County Hall; to the King addressing both Houses on Monday; then it’s the processions across London, the Lying in State, and finally the funeral. These are great events of State; and they mark the passing of our beloved Monarch. Yet they are not grief-stricken. They are about giving thanks for the most wonderful life of Duty and Service to the Nation; about the passing of a grand old lady, a Mother and Grandmother.They also signify the start of a new regime. The curious- and unprecedented -coincidence of a new Prime Minster and Administration in the same week as the new Monarch led me to wonder whether her Late Majesty had “held on” to perform her last Constitutional duty of welcoming her 15th Prime Minister; and then, her job done, drifted off to sleep in her much-loved Balmoral Castle. It is deeply sad- of course it is- but it is also a celebration of all that was great about the person; and the marking of a new start under our new King, Charles lll.So it is not with sadness, but with gladness, that we declaim:“God Save the King.”

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James Gray
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September 10, 2022