Her Majesty the Queen remembered: A world leader with a keen sense of fun

A true world leader with a mischievous twinkle in her eye who personified all that was great about this country.

Gavin Williamson first met Her Majesty at the opening of the JLR Engine Manufacturing Centre on the i54 site
Gavin Williamson first met Her Majesty at the opening of the JLR Engine Manufacturing Centre on the i54 site

That’s how Sir Gavin Williamson remembers Her Majesty the Queen, who he today described as a “rock” for Britain and the rest of the world.

In an interview with the Star, the South Staffordshire MP has paid tribute to the Queen, who he says he had the privilege of meeting on a number of occasions over the last seven years.

He says he first met Her Majesty at the opening of the JLR engine plant at the i54 Business Park, the sprawling site alongside the M54 that has become such an important part of the economy of the Black Country, Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Sir Gavin recalls that the site's opening was a big deal for the region, creating hundreds of jobs and securing the presence of one of the country’s most prestigious firms.

He remembers being nervous at the prospect of the Queen coming to cut the ceremonial ribbon. “I remember waiting to be introduced to the Queen by the Lord-Lieutenant,” he says of the October 2014 event.

“I had a real sense of excitement but also great nervousness and to be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect.

“Thankfully she immediately put me – and those around me – at ease and made it such a special occasion for everyone.

“There was the excitement of the schoolchildren who were there to meet her, as well as the people who had been at the forefront of delivering the facility.

“From the chief executive of JLR to every single person there, it was a very special moment for us all to cherish and remember.”

Sir Gavin also described the “special moment” of being presented with a CBE by the Queen in 2016.

He has also attended Privy Council meetings with the monarch as well as other smaller, less formal events – where he says he was fortunate enough to see a different side of her personality that was full of interest in other people – and of an enjoyment in having fun too.

“The Queen had this rare ability in that even though as a public figure there was naturally a majesty around her, every time you would meet her she would immediately make you feel very special and completely at ease,” he said.

“Whenever I got to meet her in a small group she was always quite relaxed, and immediately seemed incredibly engaged and interested in what was going on.

“She always had a great deal of time for the people around her.

“That was the case, whether she was at a public function or you were having a meeting with her as a privy councillor.

“I always felt incredibly humbled, but when occasions were less formal she often had a mischievous twinkle in her eye and always wanted to have a little bit of a laugh.

“Those moments were so special, and for those of us who had the opportunity to meet with her and spend time in her company, you always felt so lucky.”

Sir Gavin spent many years in and around the top levels of power in Whitehall.

He served in Her Majesty’s government as Chief Whip, Defence Secretary and Education Secretary.

That experience cemented his view that the Queen was “without doubt one of the greatest and most significant world leaders”.

He says her impact on the world stage was evident whenever he travelled abroad on official business.

It made her a powerful figure in global relations, respected by all around the world regardless of any political differences.

“Whether it was Afghanistan or South Sudan, the United States, France, Germany or Japan – all of the world leaders and politicians would have an innate respect for the Queen, as well as a desire to be remembered to her,” he said.

“They just wanted to be associated with her because she was seen as the personification of everything that was the very best about this country.

“They saw her as very much a rock, not just for the United Kingdom, but also for the Commonwealth and the rest of the world.”

Other politicians past and present from the region have paid their respects to Her Majesty, remembering the times when they have been lucky enough to be in her company.

Lord Austin, former MP for Dudley North, said the Queen’s lifetime spent in service was a “lesson to us all” as we look back on her life and prepare for a new era in the Royal Family.

He said: “My thoughts and prayers are with the Royal Family at what must be a very difficult time for them all.

“But I hope the outpouring of love, affection and respect from across the country and around the world provides some comfort to them.

“Her Majesty the Queen has provided the most dignified, stable and constant leadership to our country over 70 years. During the war she put on a uniform and served her country in the defeat of fascism.

“She has witnessed extraordinary change but brought the country and Commonwealth together and united us all.

“She put service ahead of herself and her duty and care for the country first. Whatever difficulties and challenges she and her family faced, she never complained and always put the country first.

“And for the rest of us, a lifetime spent in the service of others is a lesson to us all.”

Long-serving Wolverhampton councillor Milkinder Jaspal has fond memories of the two occasions he spent in the Queen’s presence – at Molineux in 1994 when Her Majesty was a guest of Sir Jack Hayward, and at Buckingham Palace while city mayor in 2014.

He said: “She was a one-off person who commanded the deep respect of all who she met because of her integrity.

“The reaction of the whole country shows you how much she was loved. It is like losing a mother.”

Former Wolverhampton South West MP Paul Uppal, added: “All my life The Queen has been a steadying and inspirational influence. She has been a beacon for us all to look up to. While we mourn her passing, we will also reflect on all the positive things she did.

“Speaking for many Sikhs, we revered her and considered her a leading light for us all.”

Ludlow’s MP Philip Dunne described the Queen as “our inspiration and guiding presence” and Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard added: “Her Majesty will be remembered nu historians as the greatest monarch in British history.”

Telford MP Lucy Allan said we should all be grateful for her “life and dedication to duty”.

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