The magnitude of this loss should not be understated. Through our lifetimes, through difficult times and upheaval—whether at home or abroad—the Queen has been our constant for 70 years. Her life of service and dedication, and her love for all of us, demonstrate her values, and these we must hold on to as we move into a new era, keeping her memory alive in our hearts through this historic moment of change. As a loyal public servant, her bond with all four nations of the UK was unmatched. Of course she loved Scotland, but I know that she had a special place in her heart for Wales. She was gifted a playhouse, Y Bwthyn Bach, from the people of Wales when she was six years old—apparently it is still in the grounds of Windsor Great Park—and when the Senedd was established, she insisted on being there in person for every royal opening, which is where I met her. She surprised us all with her encyclopaedic knowledge of Welsh politics and of devolution, taking pride in the fact that she knew every single detail. She understood the role that devolution had—and has—within our constitution.
Her connection to Cardiff was strong. She visited many times, and not just to cheer in the rugby and enjoy our music. Footage from 1971 shows her opening Wales’s largest hospital, our University Hospital of Wales, spending time chatting with patients, never holding back and always taking as much time with people as possible, her compassion shining through. We have also seen her passion: her speech at COP26 last year was one of the most powerful, calling on world leaders to act with urgency on climate change. Her determination is only surpassed by that of our new King. He is a passionate environmentalist and conservationist, and I am confident that his passion for combating climate change will shine through his reign.
Queen Elizabeth was our symbol, our leader for so long, but more than that, she was an incredible woman. Unassuming, principled, kind and loving, she was able to lead when times were difficult, but she also showed a constant love for all of us—something that we all felt. We will miss that, and as we mourn, we think of the loved ones we have lost, and of loved ones we may not see. Today is a reminder to hold them close, to reach out, to mend scars and wounds and to move forward with love. Life is short, and if nothing else, we must remember what is most important.
I want to remember someone close to me, and to end with one of my late father’s favourite quotations from Dylan Thomas:
“Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”