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Your travelling together on behalf of the country has been ceaseless, beginning with your tour of the Commonwealth in 1953-54 which ended with Prince Charles and Princess Anne sailing to meet you in Malta on the maiden voyage of the Royal Yacht Britannia. That great ship was your beloved voyaging home for 43 years and was herself a marvellous ambassador for Britain, travelling over a million miles in Britain’s service. In the mid-1950s you made two round-the-world voyages, visiting places then inaccessible except by sea, as far apart as Antarctica and remote Pacific islands. It is hard to believe that a great maritime nation and its monarchy no longer has such a ship.

Most important of all, Her Majesty and you have presided over a country on a tumultuous journey from imperial power to a more uncertain polyglot European society. The nation’s successful transition owes a huge amount to your joint stewardship. We have resisted dangerous Isms, and we are today one of the world’s leading defenders of democracy, the rule of law, a free economy and free speech.

All of us know how much more difficult this journey would have been had you not been there at the apex of our constitutional monarchy, which really is envied around the world. 

In the words of the philosopher Roger Scruton, the monarchy has been the light above all political and social change — and a crucial emblem of assurance on which to focus loyalty and love. Her Majesty and you both understand that the crown is an office, defined by its duties, and not an individual, defined by hopes and fears.

The Queen has shown how to adapt that office to the constantly changing conditions of the modern world. Moreover, she has a distinctive personality, kind, loyal, patriotic and imbued with Christian feeling, which shines through the office.

You, Sir, with your own Christian faith, have been able to support that remarkable Queen, without ever interfering with the office. This has been an astonishing achievement — to be always there for the one, and not intruding on the other.  

The Queen has said of you, Sir, that you have always been her “strength and stay”.  May I say to you, Sir, that together you and Her Majesty have for more than 60 years been “the strength and stay” of this great country.
We all owe you a huge debt of gratitude.    

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