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Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 13:19 GMT 14:19 UK
Lib Dem leader's tribute in full
Charles Kennedy, Lib Dem leader
Charles Kennedy spoke of the Queen Mother's energy
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy gave this eulogy about the Queen Mother in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

Mr Speaker, on behalf of my honourable and right honourable friends, it is our privilege also to give our support to the humble address moved by the prime minister a few minutes ago.

Her Majesty's passing, without doubt, does mark the end of a very long, and indeed a seminal, chapter in our country's history.

Hers, without doubt, was indeed the story of the 20th Century. And what an extraordinary story it has been.

She had the gift of being absorbed completely in whatever it was she was doing at any given time

As the leader of the Conservative Party has rightly acknowledged, her passing, of course, follows on only a few short weeks after the untimely passing of Princess Margaret.

For the Queen, of course, the whole House will wish to express its profound sympathy to lose both your only sister and now your mother in such a short space of time.

But also, perhaps, let us not forget either Princess Margaret's children who, over the same period, have lost both their mother and their grandmother.

Distant era

And coming as all this does in Jubilee Year, it must be very, very hard indeed for that family having to live out such setbacks in such a public way.

The Queen Mother, Mr Speaker, came from an era which for all of us today seems so very distant.

And yet for all of us who had the opportunity on occasions to meet and to talk with her, it was so obvious that she belonged very much here today in the present.

She had a fantastic knowledge of, and interest in, contemporary events and people.

She had the gift of being absorbed completely in whatever it was she was doing at any given time.

Bond with the people

And her achievements went beyond mere, incredible, statistical longevity.

She was really the key bond between the monarchy and the people of our country.

I remember my parents during the course of the weekend, reflecting about their wartime experiences.

I do want to say a special word about the special place that the Queen Mother always had in the hearts of people in Scotland itself

One in Glasgow - your home city Mr Speaker - the other, my father, in the West Highlands of Scotland, and the signal the King and Queen sent, particularly to the people of London, but to the other cities in the South that suffered so much during the Blitz.

The signal that they sent in terms of their personal commitment was vast.

But even in remote places, that would never catch a glimpse of the monarchy at that stage of the country's development, that message was one that resonated with people far away in the North of Scotland every bit as much as in the East End of London itself.

It was psychologically very important.

Scottish legacy

But I do want to say a special word about the special place that the Queen Mother always had in the hearts of people in Scotland itself.

She was raised at Glamis Castle. Scotland was where she really belonged. Whether it was the bracing air of Balmoral; whether it was salmon fishing on the River Dee, or the River Thurso.

Or indeed her most immediate legacy which has been discussed in the constituency - the far sighted renovation of that castle and now the way in which she has bequeathed it for future generations.

I'm exhausted. I just can't keep up with her

Royal detective
That is a cause of great pride and celebration in our area. Scots don't always give of their affection lightly. I think the Prime Minister might agree with that in another context from time to time.

We're not over impressed, as a people, by grandeur. But all generations of Scots took the Queen Mother absolutely to their hearts because of her warmth and because she identified so strongly with us.

We've all got our Queen Mother anecdotes. One of my favourites was a friend of mine, the late Mark Bonham Carter, she used to visit once a year to Mark's house for either a private lunch or a dinner.

And he'd invite a cross section of age groups and lots of life friends of his. And I was asked along to this, and it was very pleasant, a couple of dozen of us.

And the Queen Mother was holding forth her views from agriculture, to Europe, even to Proportional Representation - she wasn't very sound on that, Mr Speaker.

Sleepy protection

I don't think we want to divide the House on that Mr Speaker.

She arrived with her private detective - a little bit late. And her private detective was shown into an adjacent room. And we all sat down, and ate and argued our way through a splendid lunch.

And at the end of it, it was time for her to leave, and somebody went off to raise the private detective - well raise proved to be the operative word - the private detective was sound asleep in an armchair.

This was her protection. He looked a bit embarrassed by this discovery, and I said a word of condolence to him for having been caught out this way.

"Well the problem is," he said, "I'm exhausted. I just can't keep up with her."

Royal ear-bashing

On her hundredth birthday, a number of us had to present the Loyal Petitions on behalf of both Houses of Parliament at Clarence House, and she held court in every sense of the word in the garden.

And a beautiful afternoon it was too. Well I got a real ear-bashing about the state of fishing in the North of Scotland, and what was I going to do about it.

This to me seemed to be rather a tall order to say the least.

What I would finally say, Mr Speaker, is that this Matriarch for the country as a whole will be so greatly missed.

Perhaps she teaches all of us one very important truth: we get obsessed with institutions and with structures, but people really respond to people.

She responded to people - she liked people - and as a result they liked her. And she helped save and preserve a great institution.

We wish her well.

See also:

02 Apr 02 | UK
Royals pay their respects
03 Apr 02 | Scotland
Holyrood honours Queen Mother
30 Mar 02 | UK Politics
When Parliament has been recalled
30 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Political tributes flow for Queen Mum
02 Apr 02 | UK
A sad return to London
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