My Aunt Nora, long dead now, used to tell me tales of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee which she saw as a young girl in my home town of Windsor. So it’s meant a great deal to me to be able to witness some of the celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee either at first hand or in some of the wonderful television coverage of the events of last weekend.

My father was born quite literally in the shadow of Windsor Castle in 1894 above the family stationery shop – now it’s the town’s McDonald’s! I was born in Windsor too and the Queen and her family were very much part of my upbringing.

We would go to the Castle and see her leaving St George’s Chapel after special services there. I also saw her out with Prince Philip walking the corgis and, in those less security conscious times, they appeared to have no protection officers.

I have a particularly strong memory of learning to roller skate in the Long Walk from the castle to the Copper Horse and finding a highly amused Princess Margaret waiting patiently in her car behind me while I fell over yet again. On another occasion I was out walking in the Great Park with my parents when Prince Charles and Princess Anne came by on horseback with their instructor – as a seven year old boy, I was hugely impressed to hear Prince Charles call my father “Sir”.

Perhaps these memories are what have made the events of the last few days and weeks so special for me. Certainly attending the Royal Muster of the Armed Services in Windsor Home Park, as a Defence Minister, a couple of weeks ago was both a really nostalgic and happy occasion.

But what I have seen in the last few days is the Britain I love – tolerant, united, slightly quirky and profoundly proud of its history and its future. And just perhaps we have learnt again how much is going for us who have the great good fortune to live in a constitutional monarchy headed by such a fine Queen.

The last few days have seen a temporary end to the wearying British cynicism engendered by so many angry commentators. I know times are tough for most of us just at present as we grapple with a huge economic challenge, but wouldn’t it be good if this new spirit of celebration endured beyond the Jubilee weekend and long into the future?


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