What a sad two weeks it has been as we mourned the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and witnessed her funeral on Monday. As someone who has only known The Queen as our monarch, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised at my reaction to her death. But I was taken aback.
Similarly, colleagues, family and friends have remarked on the shock they felt when her death was announced.
Ignoring her constitutional role, I think we immediately, recognised her as a mother, grandmother and even great-grandmother. It was a natural response to empathise with her family and close friends at the loss of someone they obviously loved so much.
For those who only met her fleetingly, if at all, we were faced with an end to her 70 years of service, her role as our head of state and her unchanging stoicism through decades of immeasurable change.
The Queen steered the country through a period of history that seemed to accelerate at breakneck speed. The country of her coronation is not the same one of her funeral, save for her presence and her grace.
The proclamation ceremony we were required to perform on the Sunday following The Queen’s death was uncharted territory for us as a Council and especially for the Mayor. It was the first time it has been delivered in Solihull in modern time, as we were only incorporated in 1954 and previously proclamations were made in our county town of Warwick.
Solihull has hosted visits from The Queen in such as helping Solihull School mark its 400th anniversary in 1962, visited Chelmsley Wood in 1971 and opened the shopping centre there and toured the emerging National Exhibition Centre (NEC) site, which she subsequently opened in 1976.
More recently she came to Solihull to open Touchwood Shopping Centre in 2002.
I know at the Touchwood opening the crowds were huge and excited, and gave Her Majesty a true warm Solihull welcome.
The Queen has been a fixture in my life and the life of this country for the past 70 odd years. She has been our figurehead and our Sovereign. She has provided counsel to nineteen Prime Ministers, all of whom have said how much they valued her wisdom in their weekly audiences. She has played host to innumerable foreign heads of state, politicians and other monarchs, has visited countries across the globe, always with the same grace, manners and calm fortitude that became synonymous with Britain.
Despite the decline of monarchies around the world, somehow Her Majesty managed to charm republicans and naysayers alike. An invitation to Buckingham Palace was treasured across the political spectrum.
She met many heads of state from Mandela to Gorbachev, granted honours to politicians, community activists, sports people and those who make the UK the place it is.
And I must mention her role in cementing our Anglo-Irish relations, both visiting the Republic of Ireland in 2011 and in a powerful display of unity, reconciliation and grace shaking hands with Martin McGuiness a former IRA man, in order to recognise the end of violence and the hope of peace in that war torn corner of the UK.
And now with the State Funeral passed, The Queen at last at rest, the books of condolence closed and the flowers gone, we look to King Charles III as our new head of state and move from an Elizabethan to Carolean age.
God save the King
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council