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Thank you Mr Speaker.
It is a solemn honour to pay tribute in this House to Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
I want to begin by offering condolences on behalf of my Barnsley constituents and myself to the Royal Family in their time of grief.
It is hard to believe that the Queen is no longer with us.
For nearly all of us in this place, and beyond, her presence is all we’ve ever known.
There is a sense of loss in the country so profound that it will take time to mourn and come to terms with.
She was not only our Queen, but someone embedded in our hearts.
This special place was earnt by her devotion to each and every one of us.
She embodied dignity, devotion, duty, and service that was unwavering throughout.
Her long life and remarkable reign saw our country through the best of times.
But our late Queen was also a source of strength in the worst of times.
Not least in recent years, during the pandemic.
Her address to the nation in April 2020 was the tonic to a fear and hopelessness that seemed insurmountable.
She said ‘we will meet again’, and we did.
Queen Elizabeth was a constant source of reassurance and wisdom in a world that is often daunting and difficult to comprehend.
We will miss her deeply.
Mr speaker, all those who’ve had the privilege to serve in uniform know there will be a distinct sadness in our armed forces community.
This is because, as our Head, the late Queen cared about us deeply.
Indeed during the Second World War, as a princess, she chose to serve in the Auxiliary Territorial Service.
That closeness to and affection for, the armed forces, was reciprocated by those who serve.
It wasn’t just because we knew she was formidable.
We also knew that she had a great sense of humour!
Many of us have enjoyed the story told during the Platinum Jubilee by a former protection officer, Richard Griffin.
Whilst accompanying Her Late Majesty on a walk near Balmoral, a group approached asking, "Have you ever met the Queen?"
Her response was, "No," before pointing to her protection officer, saying, "But he has!"
People did not have to be close to the late Queen to appreciate her sense of humour.
The world remembers the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics when she was famously seen to parachute out of a helicopter with James Bond, and who could forget her double-act with Paddington bear!
Queen Elizabeth will be remembered for her extraordinary character and a life led by public service.
She shaped our country, and the Commonwealth, for the better in a way no-one else could.
I am certain that history with judge Her Late Majesty as an extraordinary monarch, adored by her people.
It will also note that while the world changed at a rapid rate,
the Queen struck the balance perfectly between stability and tradition versus change and modernisation.
A new era now begins.
At this testing moment, we must now support the King, who is grieving for his mother while leading our nation through this time of mourning.
He has already lived a life of service to others in so many ways, serving in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, establishing the Prince’s Trust and being the patron of numerous charities.
Another example close to my heart is his role as Colonel-in-Chief of my old regiment, The Parachute Regiment.
Recounting the time he took the Parachute Training Course at RAF Brize Norton, he said:
“I felt I should lead from the front or at least be able to do some of the things that one expects others to do for the country.”
It is clear that the King will follow the example set before him, to serve to lead.
The torch has been handed to a new monarch, and that sense of duty will continue to burn brightly.
Rest in peace Queen Elizabeth.
God save King Charles.