Friday, 23 September 2022
Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Ii and Accession of His Majesty King Charles Iii
It was indeed an honour as a member of this Senate to attend the national memorial service for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Great Hall of our parliament yesterday. Her Majesty's passing marks the end of an era, and it is right that we, as a nation and individually, pay our respects and record our grateful thanks for Her Majesty's lifetime of service, dedication and commitment. Her role asked a great deal of her, and she met that asking and exceeded it for over 70 years—a calm, principled leader, a woman who, particularly as Head of the Commonwealth, led in her own measured and considered way.
I've been thinking about the development of the Commonwealth during the Queen's reign in many ways—its constancy and her equally constant and steadfast leadership. On her first international visits as Queen, in her Christmas message of 1953, delivered from New Zealand, Her Majesty said of the Commonwealth:
It is an entirely new conception, built on the highest qualities of the spirit of man: friendship, loyalty and the desire for freedom and peace.
It was also in a speech to the nations of the Commonwealth on her 21st birthday in 1947 that the then princess made her oft recalled commitment to service, dedicating her whole life to the service of the peoples of the Commonwealth and its family. She spoke on that day of her love for the ancient Commonwealth but, importantly, fully recognised, in looking forward to the new post-war world, that the new Commonwealth would be a different shape, with a focus on the future and indeed on peace. This view was reinforced as both her engagement and her knowledge grew and as, in the ensuing years, her travels took her to more and more Commonwealth nations.
Her Majesty is particularly much loved across the Commonwealth countries of the Pacific. As well as Australia and New Zealand, on that tour in 1943, Her Majesty visited Tonga and Fiji. Following travels took her to Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Cook Islands, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and, of course, back to the Pacific multiple times throughout her reign, including her 16 visits to Australia. Notably, whilst in Vanuatu in 1974 on the island of Tanna, ni-Vanuatu there formed the view that His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh was a divine being. I like to imagine the amusement that that may have generated in private moments between Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, especially given all we know about her warm sense of humour. I acknowledge and thank Her Majesty for her leadership of the Commonwealth, particularly through very difficult times in very many member countries.
It has also struck me in recent weeks, as literally thousands and thousands of photographs of Her Majesty have covered our pages and our screens, that many of the warmest and happiest of those have been of the Queen with her family, of course, but also with her beloved animals—with her dogs, both corgis and dorgis, and her horses, horses at the Royal Windsor Horse Show and at Royal Ascot, her distinctive purple and red colours worn so proudly by jockeys, including here in Australia, and most recently on Chalk Stream, ridden by leading jockey James McDonald in Chris Waller's stable. Her own much-loved Carltonlima Emma was still ridden by her Majesty into her 90s—and, as Senator Cash reminded me, Emma beautifully joined the long walk this week. Records tell us that Queen Elizabeth won every classic race except the Epsom Derby. She celebrated 24 Royal Ascot winners as an owner, including the 2013 Gold Cup. I loved watching her warmth and love for the horse, as often those photographs were taken when she was unaware and at her most natural.
I also want to note her Majesty's strong commitment to the armed forces, not just those of the UK itself in her own role but across the Commonwealth. There have been many stories recorded in recent weeks, but today I want to acknowledge the extraordinary service of the bearers, who, in these recent weeks, have taken care of her Majesty as she made her way to her final rest, from Balmoral to Edinburgh, through London, to her resting place in King George VI Memorial Chapel in Windsor, with her beloved Prince Philip and her parents. They have taken such great care and been professional to the utmost in the execution of that responsibility with their precious burden. I've watched their faces, seen the emotions passing across those young defence members and admired their solemn dedication and strength. I acknowledge her Majesty's lifetime of leadership and dedication, her great love for family, and convey my sympathies to his Majesty, King Charles III; the entire royal family; and all the peoples of the Commonwealth. May she rest in peace.