Speech by the Prime Minister Tony Blair on Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip's Golden Wedding Anniversary
Thursday 20 November 1997
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, distinguished guests.
I am honoured to be Your Prime Minister and to say to You today on behalf of the whole of the British nation: congratulations to You and to Prince Philip on the occasion of your 50th Wedding Anniversary - You have our loyalty, our love and our heartfelt thanks for all Your years of devotion to us.
Her Majesty's closing works to me at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday at the end of our meeting were: "Don't be too effusive, please".
Sorry Ma'am but I am from the Disraeli school of Prime Ministers in their relations with the Monarch.
But I can do it with feeling because it's true.
I am the 10th Prime Minister of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. So she has pretty much the measure of us by now. It is more than a little awesome for me to think that the same weekly audiences I have were once enjoyed by Churchill and Macmillan, people who to me seem figures of history.
I know I speak for the former Prime Ministers present here today - Sir Edward Heath, Lord Callaghan, Lady Thatcher and John Major - when I say how invaluable and pleasurable those weekly audiences are. This is for two reasons.
First, if she will forgive me, though She is the The Queen, and the essence of dignity, it is a dignity that is very much down to earth.
Unstuffy, unfussy and unfazed by anything.
With a keen sense of humour and a mean ability for minicry.
There are only two people in the world to whom a Prime Minister can say what he likes about Cabinet colleagues. One's the wife, the other's The Queen. It is to them we can express the full extent of our affection for ministers.
But the other reason Prime Ministers enjoy the audience is one I confess I didn't really believe until I became Prime Minister.
For reasons not simply to do with Her experience, though of course that helps, She is an extraordinarily shrewed and perceptive observer of the world. Hers is advice worth having.
At the time of the CHOGM in Edinburgh, She helped me through it with the breadth of Her knowledge of the countries, but with more than that - with Her feel for the culture and spirit of the Commonwealth people.
The work The Queen does in the Commonwealth is one of the great unsung stories of our time. She travels there incessantly, and, as in India recently, her visits become the occasion of massive business and commercial success for Britain.
They revere Her as Head of the Commonwealth. The affection is clear and mutual. When Fiji rejoined us this year and their Prime Minister addressed the heads of Government, it was plain that a major motivation for Fiji was to be reunited with the Queen.
You are a symbol of unity in a world of insecurity, of continuity in a world where nothing stays the same. In Britain, people often just don't know how many miles You travel up and down the land, the places You visit, the people You meet. It is hard work. But in each place and with each person, You bring enormous pleasure and joy; for each one, a memory never forgotten.
You and Prince Philip. For it is a partnership. He works in his own right across a huge range of charities and organisations and he is also there by The Queen's side, Her support and steadfast companion. Thank you, Sir, for all you have done to make the Queen's reign a success.
Of course, like any family, You have had your ups and downs - Your share of tragedy and sorrow, as well as joy. You spoke in 1992 of the annus horribillis You had endured. This year, too, the tragedy of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, has put You and those closest to You through a terrible test. I know from the conversations we had during those days, how deeply You felt those events for Yourself, Prince Charles and the boys. I know too, contrary to some of the hurtful things that were said at the time, how moved You were by the outpouring of grief which followed, as in the security and sanctity of your own home, You sought as a family to help the boys.
I believe that for both You and Prince Philip, life's chief imperative, what keeps You going, is a simple concept: duty. Duty leading to service.
Despite Your position or perhaps because of it, it cannot always be easy. But You do it - the unenjoyable as well as the enjoyable - because it is Your duty.
I make a lot of this being a modern country. I am the youngest of Your Prime Ministers. But contrary to myth, modernity and tradition can and do live happily together. The best of modernity builds on the best of tradition.
A strong and flourishing Monarchy can play the same full part in a new modern Britain as it has in the past.
My generation pays tribute to You today with every bit as much force as older generations do. For the Queen stands for those values of duty and service that are timeless, as relevant now as ever.
I wasn't born when You were married.
I was three weeks old at your Coronation.
As a young boy in short trousers, I stood and waved my flag as I saw You first in Durham City back in the early 60s.
I am proud as proud can be to be Your Prime Minister today offering this tribute on behalf of the country.
You are our Queen. We respect and cherish You. You are, simply, the Best of British.
So may I invite all of our guests to join me in wishing You and Prince Philip many further happy years together, with the assurance of the united affection of Your people, here and throughout the Commonwealth.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Her Majesty The Queen and Prince Philip.