I stand here most humbly at the heart of our democracy to represent my loyal constituency of South Dorset and my family and friends who do not have a chance such as this to say farewell and thank you to the Queen for more than 70 years of service. The rich contributions in the House today show how she has touched every single one of our lives—it is extraordinary. I will end the story about David Nott mentioned by the hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) in her touching speech; I know David very well, and what she did not say is that the Queen rang him four months later and said, “Because of the difficulty we had last time, do come back and have lunch again,” and he did. That is the lady we are talking about.
One such friend is Admiral Woodard, the last admiral to serve on the royal yacht, who knew the Queen extremely well. Sadly, he lies very ill in hospital, but I know that both he and his devoted wife Rozzy would want me to tell the House just what a kind, remarkable and dutiful woman the Queen was and how she will be sorely missed.
None of us will forget what happens with momentous events or where we are. I was returning from Birmingham, where I had been with the Defence Committee for a meeting with Boeing. Like everyone in this House, from all the eloquent and excellent and speeches I have heard, and like millions across the world, I had an overwhelming feeling of loss. It was personal—we have heard that so many times tonight—and shockingly real.
I was fortunate enough to have the honour to serve the Queen for nine years in the Army, meeting her twice and participating in her unique birthday parade on two occasions. There was not a Guardsman who would not have followed the Queen to hell and back, had she ordered it, such was the affection they had for her.
On that note, I hope hon. Members will allow me to tell a very short story. As I returned to Wellington Barracks one morning, I looked into the company office, and the company clerk was sitting behind his typewriter. He was covered in bruises—it looked as though he had run into a brick wall at 90 mph. I said to him, “What on earth happened to you?” In a deadpan voice, he explained that he had taken his wife out to the pub, when three troublemakers entered. During the evening, those troublemakers picked a fight with the couple and began to insult his wife. I intervened and said, “I quite understand; I see what happened.” He said, “No, no, sir. You don’t understand. My wife and I could take that, but when they began to insult the Queen—that’s when I got stuck in.” I gave him the day off.
Of course, it was not just the military who adored Her Majesty. The outpouring of grief from every corner of the world is testament to the level of respect and affection in which she was held. The Queen has been an integral part of my life, and all our lives, for so long. She has been the linchpin of our county. Her devotion to duty and country has been so extraordinary that I suspect many of us have taken her for granted, and like so many things that we take for granted, it is not until we lose them that we fully, fully appreciate their value. As I drove up today in the car, I could not help thinking that her parting reminds us all to hold dear to those we love, and to keep saying that we love them. On behalf of my constituents, my family and my friends, I say: “Rest in peace, Your Majesty.” God save the King.