Mr. Speaker, we convene in this rare fashion today, a joint session of the Legislature, to reflect on an historic life of committed service and incomparable duty.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II lived an incredible, almost surreal life; one of great privilege but also a life dominated by certain core ideals to which we all can relate; irrespective of her elevated status. Mr. Speaker, in that last picture of the Queen inviting her 15th Prime Minister to form a government, it is ironic to think that the frail hand extended to the new Prime Minister, is a hand kissed by Winston Churchill, a hand that danced with Gerald Ford, a hand that waved to millions across so many countries. In extending that hand for that final time, the Queen demonstrated to the world that she had been true to the vow made in 1947 to devote her life to service.
Mr. Speaker, none of us, not even Kings and Queens, can decide the circumstances into which we are born.But it is what we make of our lives that determines how we are remembered or if we become a footnote to the long story of life.
Mr. Speaker, even at the age of 96, Her Majesty’s death has shocked many. Her life and the constancy of her service meant that whether we warmed to the idea of monarchy or not, “The Queen” was the single most immovable feature on the world stage.
Mr. Speaker, even the world’s most ardent republicans have been compelled to salute Her Majesty’s life of unparalleled devotion to duty. With her passing so soon after the observance of the Platinum Jubilee, we have been reminded that the 70 years during which the Queen served the UK and the Commonwealth have been marked by such remarkable global change. Change that she not only weathered but through which she thrived.
For all the tradition and age-old ritual that surrounds the institution of British monarchy, this Queen struck that enviable balance between preserving the past and embracing the future. Her coronation made history by being televised, permitting a technological intrusion into the centuries old ceremony; and at her death, she was the owner of an iPad, among the latest iterations of the technology which came about during her 70 year reign.
Mr. Speaker, Her Majesty was variously known as a symbol or a figurehead; but in truth, Mr. Speaker she was a leader. Asked why she tended to wear bright colours when on official engagements, the Queen famously replied: “I must be seen to be believed”.
Mr. Speaker, Her Majesty was forced to overcome a natural shyness and to mitigate the challenge presented by her small stature. Despite, and perhaps because of, these qualities, she determined early that leadership in or from the shadows would not be acceptable to her people.
That steadfast devotion to duty - that has been the refrain of every remembrance the world over - meant that just two days before her death she discharged the constitutional functions of her role even when there were others who might have done so in her stead.
Mr. Speaker, Bermuda has hosted numerous Royal Visits, however, none have generated the level of local interest as those of the Queen. Some Honourable Members will recall her most recent visit in 2009 for Bermuda’s 400th anniversary of settlement. That visit culminated in a State Dinner hosted by the then Premier Ewart Brown, at Tucker’s Point.
Mr. Speaker, it is said that the menu that night featured various local dishes from rockfish to seasonal vegetables. But the intrigue of the evening surrounded that local delicacy – cassava pie. After some diplomatic assurance from her host, I am pleased to share that the royal palate can be said to have sampled that unique Bermudian dish.
Mr. Speaker, the embedded continuity of the institution of British monarchy means that a King now assumes the throne and with great pageantry the end of one era and the dawn of another has been recognized across the world.
Mr. Speaker, as I observed on the day of the Queen’s passing, more than monarch she was the matriarch of a family, a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.
On behalf of the Government and People of Bermuda we extend sincere condolences to His Majesty the King, the Queen Consort, their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales and the entire Royal Family.
The loss of a mother and grandmother is felt equally whether her picture hangs with those of the rest of the family on a living room wall, or rests on a bedside table, or whether her picture happens to be on the currency.
Let us reflect on the Queen’s decades of undimmed duty and service, and her quiet but steadfast leadership over a long and well-lived life.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.