On the Death of Queen Elizabeth II
Assembly to Loughborough Grammar School, 9th September 2022
You will have undoubtedly heard the sad news that Her Majesty the Queen died peacefully yesterday. Elizabeth the Second was 96 years old, our longest reigning monarch. None of us in this room will remember a time when she was not our Queen.
Her life was extraordinary, and her service to this country and to the Commonwealth immeasurable. She became Queen in 1952 at only 26 years old. Winston Churchill was her first Prime Minister. 14 others have come and gone during her 70-year reign. In all the shifting sands and changing tides that we have experienced in our lifetime, she has been an ever-arching presence. A symbol of unity and stability, of integrity, service and character. For me and for countless others, she has always been a source of inspiration.
And yet she was not a just symbol, she was something much more than that – she was a person. A mother, a sister, a wife, a grandmother. She knew the same sorts of joys that we all do in our lives, and also experienced loss and knew the sting of hard times. For me, she represents the values of my grandparents’ generation, those that have become rarer, and yet, are more important than ever. She was kind, courteous, and took a genuine interest in others. Those things that make someone a good person regardless of wealth, class, or education.
There are people in this room who will remember when the Queen visited Loughborough Grammar School to celebrate its quincentenary – that is, the 500th anniversary of its foundation – in 1995. I have seen the photographs of her walking across the quad, surrounded by staff and pupils from the school. It was a joyous occasion. Most of us, of course, never met her. Yet, she was known to us all, at least in some way. And to lose someone you know is hard. Particularly when it is someone you admire. Millions of people throughout this nation and all over the world will feel a sense of loss, and perhaps a sort of bewilderment. It is natural that when someone who has been a presence throughout our lives is no longer there, we feel a little out at sea.
But there are good emotions that can come with this as well. First, a sense of thankfulness. I feel grateful that my time here on earth has overlapped with that of Her Majesty the Queen. I am grateful for her example, for her dedication and service. I will have fond memories of her Golden, Diamond, and Platinum Jubilees for the rest of my years. I will always remember watching her thoughtful Christmas speeches gathered round the television with family. And I will always smile when I remember her appearances alongside James Bond during the 2012 London Olympics and Paddington Bear earlier this year.
Secondly, it is interesting to live at a time of change. We are witnesses to the end of an era, the second Elizabethan age. Although it is a new experience for us, the changing of monarchs is and always has been part of this nation’s history. Kings and Queens are mortals like us. They live and they die like we do. There is still a great future before us, one that we have the power to shape. The Queen’s son is now our new King, Charles III. Our sympathies are with him, and with all of the Royal Family as they mourn their private loss. I received notice this morning that the local proclamation of his ascension will take place at the Carillon Tower in Queen’s Park in Loughborough on Sunday at 2pm, and I would encourage you to go along if you can. I look forward to a new period of British history which begins now, today – a moment we will all remember for the rest of our lives. God save the King.
We expect to hold a service of remembrance on the quad this afternoon at 3pm along with our neighbouring schools, weather permitting. Details will be communicated to you over the course of the day. I would ask you please to arrive and depart from that service in silence and to show the greatest respect to the Queen’s memory and to those who will join us in the heart of our school.