Yesterday, I had the honour of attending the National Service of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, followed by a reception for the Royal Family, government, military, religious and other public service leadership at the Guildhall.
I’m an enormous fan of Her Majesty The Queen and like many across the world, I was keen to pay tribute to our 96-year old monarch who has served the United Kingdom and Commonwealth union of nationals with remarkable diplomacy, compassion and skill every day for seventy years!
To begin the day, we boarded our coaches and cleared security ready to drive the 2 minutes from the Guildhall to St. Paul’s. As colleagues from across the Court of Common Council in the City of London stood outside Cathedral, there was a sudden realisation that this event was a real moment in our history. It is highly likely there will never be another platinum jubilee for a monarch, certainly not in our lifetime. Whilst Her Majesty was unable to attend in person, the thoughts and prayers of every member of the congregation and the thousands of people lining the City’s streets were with The Queen.
At 10.30am sharp, we joined the procession and paraded through the Cathedral to take our seats in the Quire, between the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell and the Bishop of London, Dame Sarah Mullally. The Lord Mayor was busy ushering royal guests up the steps and through the Cathedral to their seats, before he joined us, alongside the Swordbearer, the Common Cryer and Serjeant-at-Arms and the City Marshal.
The Sermon was delivered by the Archbishop of York in the absence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who had unfortunately contracted Covid-19 during the week. He set the tone and feeling of the congregation perfectly – he was funny, included lots of horse analogies, but also called people to service, to help and support those around them in this time of difficulty for the world.
Following the service, we left the Cathedral to drive back to the Guildhall in time to receive the 2,000 invited guests with links to Her Majesty. Members of the Royal Family and government spent an impressive amount of time circulating in an attempt to meet as many guests as possible and thank them for their service. The remarkable music of the Royal Marine’s band entertained us all and the Lord Mayor paid his own tribute to The Queen.
For many of the guests, it was their first time to the Guildhall, which has a mind-blowingly impressive history, so I spent as much time as I could giving tours to members of the military family. There is a common reaction when people see the Great Hall, the Crypt, the Art Gallery, the Livery Hall, the Old Library, the Chief Commoner’s Parlour, the Court of Aldermen and the Roman Amphitheatre – “Wow!” People can never seem to comprehend how large the site is from the outside and how many priceless artefacts they have on display.
All in all, it was a day never to be forgotten. A day of celebration of so many achievements in world history and so much love and respect for our monarch. But it was also a moment of reflection that a remarkable Elizabethan era is drawing to a close and perhaps Her Majesty should be allowed some time away from the cameras now to enjoy some privacy and dignity in her final chapter after giving so much of her lift to the benefit of others.