Last Thursday morning, I flew out to Gibraltar ahead of National Day. I was invited by the Government of Gibraltar to meet Ministers and the Chief Minister in my capacity as Labour adviser for the charity Friends of the British Overseas Territories.
By the time I landed in Gibraltar, the news from Balmoral was starting to filter in. The Queen was seriously ill, and by 7:30pm (Gibraltar time) we received the news we’d been dreading. Her Majesty had passed.
It was an emotional and surreal afternoon. However, I did find some solace in my surroundings. Gibraltar is one of the most loyal territories of the Crown. Photos of The Queen adorn homes, places of worship and many public places. In Gibraltar, I witnessed first-hand the breadth of The Queen’s influence, and how much she will be missed in the overseas territories.
As a mark of respect, all planned meetings and official duties were cancelled. I did, however, have an opportunity to pray at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Gibraltar, and sign the book of condolence in the Governor’s House on behalf of constituents across Denton and Reddish. I then hastily set about booking the first available flight home.
I left Heathrow on Thursday an Elizabethan, and returned a Carolinian (a term I wasn’t familiar with but am assured describes what we now are!). On Monday, I joined parliamentarians of all stripes to hear an address from His Majesty the King, Charles III.
In a bittersweet moment, the Jubilee Lamps – a gift commissioned by Parliament to mark the Queen’s platinum Jubilee – were unveiled. The lamps include the lion of England, unicorn of Scotland, the Irish elk of Northern Ireland and the dragon of Wales. The wish was that they would be unveiled to The Queen herself, but will instead serve as a fitting tribute to her incredible reign.
John F. Kennedy once said that “history is a relentless master”, words that feel all the more apt after the last week. The loss of The Queen is incredibly difficult to process. Her Majesty was an extraordinary individual who put her duty to this nation and the Commonwealth above all else. She led us through the changing tides of the 20th and 21st centuries and seemed an ever-present guiding figure.
But as Her Majesty well understood, history marches on. As we mourn, we also look to the future, to our new King and how he will continue his mother’s exceptional legacy.