I was greatly saddened, as I am sure you all were, to hear of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday evening.
At the age of 21, she publicly announced that she would devote her life to the service of our country and the Commonwealth, and she was true to her word right up to her final official duty this week in appointing the 15th Prime Minister of her reign, Liz Truss.
Over the course of her reign, she has always been a dignified, gentle, thoughtful and reassuring presence as the world around us has changed, and through the highs and lows we have experienced as a nation.
I cannot think of a head of state anywhere else in the world that commanded the level of universal love and respect that the Queen did.
Throughout her life, and on her many travels around the world, she has always managed to negotiate the delicate art of being seen as a representative of the people of the United Kingdom rather than a representative of its government.
At the start of her reign, she was quick to recognise that the Commonwealth bore no resemblance to the Empire of the past and that our relationship with Commonwealth nations was one of friendship and cooperation for the common good of the people.
To some, the Commonwealth symbolised the decline of Britain’s influence in the world. Its early years also coincided with tensions over the arrival in the UK of immigrants from former colonies.
But the Queen’s enthusiasm remained undimmed. “To that new conception of an equal partnership of nations and races I shall give myself heart and soul every day of my life,” she promised in a 1953 speech.
This year we had the opportunity to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee – it was an extraordinary moment for her and the country.
The Queen was patron of the British Chambers of Commerce, and I was especially delighted and honoured to receive an invitation, along with our president Kate Beardmore, to the Trooping of the Colour on 2nd June.
The period of mourning following her passing is an opportunity for us all to reflect on the selfless service, respect, and generosity she gifted to all of us over the past 70 years.
We now have a new King, Charles III, and I send him and all his family our deepest felt condolences on behalf of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, on the loss of his mother, our Queen.