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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 3 April, 2002, 13:35 GMT 14:35 UK
An uncommon celebration
Prime Minister Tony Blair addressing recalled House of Commons
Blair led celebration of the Queen Mother's life

This was always going to be one of those occasions when the House of Commons was united - and so it was.

Politicians from all sides, most in black ties, joined together on a glorious spring day to pay tribute to the Queen Mother.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith spoke of enormous debt
But, while there was universal sadness at her death, this was not a unity born purely out of grief.

Rather, MPs had returned from their Easter break to celebrate a life.

And, fittingly, the occasion was marked as much by laughter as sorrow.

It was also, thankfully, notable for its lack of glib soundbites.

Sense of fun

Instead a nearly-full Commons heard a series of sincere tributes to a woman whose life spanned an extraordinary and often terrifying century.

Each speaker had a personal anecdote in which they attempted to sum up the Queen Mother's character and her impact on them.

They were dominated by examples not only of her sense of duty but also her sense of fun.

And speaker after speaker remarked on the momentous changes she had lived through and often played a part in.

As preparations were continuing in nearby Westminster Hall for the lying in state, the prime minister summed it up as well as anyone.

Oldest Queen

"During that long life the Titanic sailed and sank when she was 11, World War One broke out on her 14th birthday, her first child was born in 1926, the year that television was invented.

"She was the last Empress of India. In 1986 she became the oldest person to bear the title of Queen in the history of the British monarchy.

The recalled House of Commons
The House was united
"In all, she saw 20 different Prime Ministers pass through Downing Street."

"One of my best memories of her personally is sitting with her at Balmoral as she told me of her personal recollections not just of Churchill and Attlee, but of Asquith, Lloyd George and Baldwin," he said.

And he brought laughter with an account of her reply to one Boer veteran who told her he could never forgive the English.

"Oh, I do so understand, we in Scotland feel just the same," she said.

Joyful celebration

Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith dubbed her "the best of us".

He also spoke of her ability to remain in touch and never appear anachronistic.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy also raised laughter with an anecdote about finding her bodyguard fast asleep at one event.

His excuse was that he could not keep up with her.

There were many similar references to her spirit and enjoyment of life and her eagerness to rub shoulders with people from all walks of life.

It was not the most dramatic or emotional of Commons occasions - this was an event all had long been prepared for.

Instead it was a quiet, dignified and - ultimately - joyful celebration of the impact one woman had had on the lives of many.


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03 Apr 02 | UK Politics
02 Apr 02 | UK
02 Apr 02 | UK
03 Apr 02 | UK Politics
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