This month, given the enormity of recent events, I thought Chronicle readers might like to read an extract of my tribute to Her late Majesty The Queen in the House of Commons the day after her passing.
Madam Deputy Speaker; I want to say a few things on behalf of my constituents in Winchester.
Yesterday was one of the saddest days imaginable. We have known it was coming for a while now, but the sense of shock we feel today is palpable. This is a national moment but it feels intensely personal.
Her late Majesty spoke movingly of her late husband, the Duke of Edinburgh as her “strength and stay” but the truth is that she was ours.
I was extremely honoured to meet the Queen in 2012 at Buckingham Palace as a relatively new MP.
The Queen asked me which constituency I represent, so I said Winchester, and we briefly discussed how the city was - still is - searching for the remains of King Alfred, our most famous son. The Queen loved that and, with that trademark smile and twinkle in her eye, said, “They’ve just found one of my ancestors under a car park in Leicester!”
Our late Queen visited Winchester many times, including in 1959 to officially open Elizabeth II Court, the home of Hampshire County Council, and for the Maundy service in April 1979 in our great cathedral.
We had the new King in Winchester just a few months ago to unveil - this is a mark of how he will wear the Crown - a statue of a famous Jewish figure in Winchester history called Licoricia.
I often remind my constituents that Back-Bench MPs do not really have that much power, but we do have quite a bit of influence. The longer we do this job, the better we get at using it for the benefit of our constituents. Our late Queen, as a constitutional monarch, did not hold any executive power — in fact, she could not even vote — but boy did she wield great influence through her vast experience and the respect she rightly commanded all over the world.
There has been a lot of replaying overnight of the words spoken by the young Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday when she said that her whole life “whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family”.
However, a lesser-known passage of that speech reads: “But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do”.
I have always been struck by that comment as incredibly revealing and brave, because I think our then future Queen was saying, “I don’t embody the divine right of Kings and Queens” - so fabled in British history - “I have to earn it and keep it. I need your support.”
I think she reigned in that spirit - never lost in the majesty of it all - but always knowing that she had to draw that strength from the support of her people and that she had to constantly be seen to be believed. Maybe those two famous appearances on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, at either end of that fabulous platinum jubilee weekend earlier this summer, showed that she knew that right until the very end.
We have heard a lot today about schoolchildren and how they ask us if we have ever met the Queen. I get that too. I was with a school here when I was a relatively new MP, and one of the schoolchildren asked me - how did God save the Queen?”
“That’s one for your teachers” I said but maybe our late sovereign lady now knows the answer?
As a Christian in this House, I believe that everyone - whether they live on the planet for a matter of hours or for 96 hugely influential years - changes our world by their presence in it.
As others have said today, we are so lucky to have had Queen Elizabeth II in our lives. We are changed by it.
Thank you, Queen Elizabeth II; it has been a privilege. God save the King.