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On March 20, Britain’s Parliament presented Queen Elizabeth II with ‘humble addresses’ to mark the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
Humble addresses are the traditional means by which Parliament communicates with the Sovereign. In most cases, these are mundane affairs that take place without much ceremony. But since this was a special occasion, both Houses assembled in their entirety to hear their respective Speakers present their addresses.
Upon arriving at the Palace of Westminster, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were met by a host of dignitaries, including the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Lord Speaker, and the Speaker of the House of Commons. Both Speakers wore elaborate black silk robes adorned with gold lace and decorations.
But while the Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza, opted to wear traditional court dress (including knee breeches and tights) underneath it all, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow chose to wear morning dress with a green House of Commons tie.
In addition to her husband, the Queen was accompanied by a number of courtiers, including the Countess of Airlie (one of her Ladies-in-Waiting), Colonel Dan Rex (her Equerry-in-Waiting), and Sir Christopher Geidt (her Private Secretary). Led by the Lord Great Chamberlain and his white wand of office, the royal party made its way into Westminster Hall, which is the oldest portion of the Palace of Westminster.
Because the House of Lords is technically the senior house, the Lord Speaker addressed the Queen first. “You have personified continuity and stability while ensuring that Your role has evolved imperceptibly, with the result that the Monarchy is as integral a part of our national life today as it was 60 years ago,” she said.
“We rejoice in this Jubilee and we give thanks for all that it represents,” she continued.
The Speaker of the House of Commons spoke next. “If, as Gandhi asserted, ‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,’ then Your Majesty must have found Yourself countless times over the past six decades.”
“You have dedicated Your life to others. The daily example that You set, mirrored by our courageous armed forces of which You are Commander-in-Chief, is extraordinary,” he said.
Bercow, who has long been an avid supporter of gay rights, spoke of how Britain was “a land where men and women today are equal under the law and where Your people are respected, regardless of how they live, how they look or how they love.”
He went on to call Her Majesty “a kaleidoscope Queen of a kaleidoscope country in a kaleidoscope Commonwealth,” much to the apparent annoyance of Prime Minister David Cameron, who scowled at the Speaker.
When Bercow had finished speaking, the Queen thanked her Parliament for their addresses. In doing so, she paid tribute to her husband’s tireless support, saying “Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide.”
Referring to the elaborate stained-glass window that had been commissioned to mark her Diamond Jubilee, she mentioned that “the happy relationship I have enjoyed with Parliament has extended well beyond the more than three and a half thousand Bills I have signed into law. I am therefore very touched by the magnificent gift before me, generously subscribed by many of you. Should this beautiful window cause just a little extra color to shine down upon this ancient place, I should gladly settle for that.”
“We are reminded here of our past, of the continuity of our national story and the virtues of resilience, ingenuity and tolerance which created it. I have been privileged to witness some of that history and, with the support of my family, rededicate myself to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come,” she concluded.