Diamond Jubilee: Queen praises ‘tolerant’ Britain

By politics.co.uk staff

The Queen praised the "tolerance" of Britain in a speech to both Houses of Parliament today, as a specially-made stained glass window was unveiled to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.

The window, which has been personally paid for by members of the Commons and the Lords, was put on display before being installed in the hall's north window, which has had plain glass since it was damaged by an IRA bomb in 1974.

"The experience of venerable old age can be a mighty guide but not a prerequisite for success in public office," the Queen said.

"Should this beautiful window cause just a little extra colour to shine down on this ancient place I should be grateful for that."

The Queen then told the audience of "our past, of the continuity of our national story" and the "tolerance" that constitutes the British national character.

She also reminded MPs and peers that she had dealt with 12 prime ministers in her 60-year reign and of the fact she had signed some 3,500 bills into law.

The monarch's speech followed a "humble address" by the Speakers of both Houses – John Bercow and Lady D'Souza.

Historically, the addresses would have requested reform or an exception from extra funding, but in modern times they are used instead to celebrate landmarks in the Queen's reign.

Mr Bercow offered a celebration of the flowering of British diversity under her reign.

"It has been your singular accomplishment, to hold together that which could have been torn asunder," he said.

"You have moved with the times and allowed the times to move around the rest of society.

"This is a land where women are equal under the law and where your people are respected regardless of how they look or who they love. All this progress occurred during your reign."

He added: "You have become a kaleidoscope Queen of a kaleidoscope country in a kaleidoscope Commonwealth."

The window, which is made of around 1,500 separate pieces of glass by British artist John Reyntiens, features her cloak of arms. It will be set opposite a window with her father's cloak of arms.

Westminster Hall, which was built in 1097, is the oldest part of the Westminster estate. It has escaped destruction twice, once in 1834 when fire broke out, and again during the Blitz, when officials decided to save it and let the Commons burn.

The ceremony was first held under its roof in 1935, to mark the silver jubilee of George V, the Queen's grandfather.

Few people are given the honour of addressing both Houses of Parliament, although in recent years Pope Benedict XVI and President Barack Obama have been given an invitation.