We are not alone in feeling deeply saddened by the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II – our country has lost a selfless public servant and a unifying force in an increasingly-divided world.
While we mourn the loss of a Head of State who, for more than 70 years, remained a constant source of stability, wisdom and comfort to the country, we are also watching a family grieve a loved one – something I am sure we all can empathise and identify with.
As The Queen said herself, ‘Grief is the price we pay for love’, and we are reminded that our sadness is because we have experienced that love.
Unsurprisingly, I am a staunch Monarchist and The Queen, and the Royal Family, have featured in many poignant moments in my life – as I am sure it has with many people across Swindon and Wiltshire. Last week’s announcement from Buckingham Palace automatically brought reflection but also brought the memories alongside it too.
And, one of my earliest memories was of The Queen’s Coronation. I cannot remember what I saw but I remember the excitement and sitting on a string suitcase rack with my head sticking through the rolled-back roof of a coach somewhere in London.
On a more personal note, when I was 12 years old and at a state school in Newbury, we played Cheam School at rugby, and because the then Prince Charles and I both played hooker we banged heads in every scrum. My parents were besides themselves on the touchline …. I am not sure who they were most concerned for!
Fast forward a few years, and my military service meant that, in 1982, my parents were with me when I was honoured to be made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) by Her Majesty and, in 1998, I was awarded the Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by HRH Prince Charles, our new King, in front of my wife and two children. Excess pride can be a folly but making others proud is a beautiful thing.
The commitment to public duty, so exemplified by The Queen, remains an inspiration to us all and, none more so, than within the police community who swear their allegiance and to ‘well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable’.
While we will all mark our respects in our own way on Monday, and I will be attending the national silence being held in my own village, one Wiltshire Police officer will be representing our county in London.
Sgt Russ Griffin will attend the funeral, in full dress uniform, and stand in a prominent location lining the procession route. He will join a representative from every police force in the UK as a mark of respect.
It will be an honour for him to serve the Queen in her death, as all our police officers have done during her life. My respects, Ma’am.