Just back from the Royal Gallery in the House of Lords where I met the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The reception for 300 MPs and Peers followed the full turnout of both Houses for the “presentation of addresses” in Westminster Hall.
The British do pageantry very well. This morning we had the Yeoman of the Guard in their uniforms designed in the time of Henry VII complete with their pikes, or were they halberds? The Lord Speaker and Mr Speaker processed with our maces and sat behind red and green lecterns. The State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry, standing on the window sill of the great south window in front of us, blasted out a welcome. And there she was, dressed in a lemon outfit, with the hat not quite making up for the fact that she seems smaller than you expect close up.
Mr Speaker Bercow made an excellent address on behalf of the House of Commons, referring to how Britain had changed for the better during the Queen’s 60 year reign. She now presided over a kaleidoscope nation where people were comfortable with everyone, whatever their social background, race or how we love each other. There may have been some twitching in seats at the latter point.
The Queen replied that after 60 years, 12 Prime Ministers and signing 3,500 Bills into Acts of Parliament, she would rededicate herself to serving the country.
At the reception afterwards we were grouped in eights to meet either the Queen or the Duke. My group met Prince Philip first, who asked if we were all MPs? No, said Baroness Doreen Miller. Duke – “how am I supposed to tell the difference?” Lady Miller promptly produced her red striped badge identifying her as a member of the House of Lords. I showed him my green striped Commons photo-badge. He held it – “could be anyone, easily faked!” And off he went, our royal encounter over. But I was pleased at the end, just as the Queen was leaving, Mr Speaker introduced her to me and some colleagues. He called for “three cheers” and, looking somewhat startled she gave us a wave and was off back to her other London Palace.
So my morning escapism is over. Back to an afternoon of letters, meetings and debates.