THE last week has seen the United Kingdom at its best, both mourning with the world the loss of Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but also celebrating her remarkable life and place in British history and that of the Commonwealth.

It has been an extraordinary moment in time, on a scale that almost none of us will ever see again, and one I feel very privileged to have been able, in a small way, to have been part of.

As constitutional events unfolded, one of the first duties of the new King, Charles III, was to receive addresses from both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall.

This was an incredibly moving event, not least for most of us it being the first time we had sung ‘God Save The King’. Quite apart from the pomp and ceremony of the occasion however, it was also an opportunity for Parliament and the King to reaffirm the vital role that constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy play here in the UK.

In the words of the Speaker of the House of Commons speaking on behalf of members of the House of Commons to the King: ‘You recognised your life would change as a result of your new responsibilities. You pledged yourself to uphold the constitutional principles at the heart of our nation. These are weighty responsibilities.’

As the late Queen’s namesake, the earlier Queen Elizabeth, said in her final speech to parliamentarians: ‘To be a king and wear a crown, is a thing more glorious to them that see it, than it is pleasant to them that bear it.’

The King in his response to both Houses said: ‘Parliament is the living and breathing instrument of our democracy. That your traditions are ancient we see in the construction of this great hall and the reminders of mediaeval predecessors of the office to which I have been called.’

All of us who play a role in our democracy, have a responsibility and make a commitment to uphold and protect the constitutional democratic principles on which our system of governance is based. The first thing I will do on my return to Westminster is therefore to take the oath of allegiance to the Crown.

Over the last 10 days, it has been incredible to see the number and range of events taking place both locally and nationally to celebrate the life of the late Queen. Many churches held services including at St Gregory’s in Dawlish, at St Michael’s in Teignmouth and on Sunday at St Paul’s in Newton Abbot where the service for the Teignbridge community as a whole took place.

Local pubs and other community hubs, such as Teignmouth Rugby Club, screened the funeral and cadets from Teignmouth School also read the prayers at a service at Exeter Cathedral.

Nationally, the queue to seeing the lying-in-state in Westminster Hall took on an almost mythical status of itself. Thousands of people from across the country and further afield came to pay their respects waiting sometimes for more than 12 hours.

But the sheer pageantry and breathtaking performance that was the state funeral will remain with me forever. That we as the general public have been able to see so much from the Privy Council pronouncing the accession to the Crown of King Charles, to the lying-in-state, the processions to and from Westminster Hall and Buckingham Palace, the State Funeral itself in Westminster Abbey to the final goodbye in Windsor Castle has been a rare privilege that has united us all.

Whilst a nation has lost a monarch, it is important also to remember that a family have lost their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Therefore, my thoughts, as I’m sure are many of yours, at this time are with the Royal Family as they mourn the passing of the late Queen.

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