Our country has lost the only Head of State known to the majority of our population.
Elizabeth of the House of Windsor, came to the Throne of many realms, including Antigua and Barbuda, in 1952.
In the 70 years of her reign, she met every head of government of our country, going back to our National Hero, Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, even before we attained our political independence in 1981.
Every one of her heads of government of Antigua and Barbuda, including me, can attest to the warmth of her personality, and the humility with which she carried out her duties as Queen of several realms and head of the Commonwealth of Nations.
She had an abiding interest in the countries of which she was Queen, and ours was no exception.
In the course of her reign, she was the Sovereign of more than 30 countries.
Recognizing that she could not be physically present in all of them with the frequency that she might have liked, she ensured that many members of the Royal family visited each of them.
Thus, while she herself came to Antigua and Barbuda several times, so too did her husband, Prince Phillip, her sister Princess Margaret, Prince Charles – now King Charles III –and even her grandsons, William and Harry.
She maintained her knowledge of events in our country, on a regular basis, through her appointed Governors from 1952 until 1981, and, after that, through her appointed Governors-General, who represented her as Head of State, each of whom sent her monthly dispatches.
Sixteen realms around the world now mourn Queen Elizabeth’s passing – seven of them, including Antigua and Barbuda – are in the Caribbean.
Therefore, we in Antigua and Barbuda join with the 15 others, including Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, the Solomon Islands and six other Caribbean states, in mourning Her Majesty’s passing.
In her 70 years as our Sovereign, Elizabeth II was also head of the Commonwealth of Nations.
When she became head of this voluntary association, its membership was only eight countries of which three were Republics.
Today, 56 nations comprise the Commonwealth and 35 of them are republics, with another 5 having their own monarchs.
Her Majesty The Queen, did not stand in the way of her realms, transitioning to Republican status, if that was the expressed wish of their peoples.
Under her stewardship, 16 of her realms became Republics, and each of them remained part of the Commonwealth, readily accepting her as “the symbol of their voluntary association”.
Remarkably, the five newest members of the Commonwealth, whose Governments and peoples embraced the Queen, as Head of the Association, are not English-speaking and did not have any previous links to Her Majesty.
Those countries are all African – Mozambique, Cameroon, Rwanda, Togo and Gabon.
This fact, in itself, is testimony to the worldwide regard in which Queen Elizabeth II was held, and the great value that was placed in the quality of her leadership.
It is no wonder that, throughout the world, including in countries where she was not Queen and which are not members of the Commonwealth, there has been spontaneous and heart-felt outpouring of grief at Her Majesty’s passing.
This is the measure of respect and affection in which Elizabeth II was personally held, notwithstanding ancient resentments that persist, regarding the role of her ancestors in colonialism, exploitation and their attendant attributes.
This House of Representatives today, in this special session, mark the passing of our Sovereign Head of State.
We do so with affection, admiration and respect, for her enduring legacy of service, resilience and quiet demeanour which inspired us all.
May the legacy of her exceptional example endure in perpetuity.
In homage to Her Majesty, and in keeping with the protocols regarding the passing of our Head of state, the Cabinet has designated Monday, September 19, 2022 as an official holiday, on the occasion of the Queen’s interment, so that the people of our nation might reflect – each in their own way – on the lessons of her noble life.
I will travel to London this weekend, as Head of Government of Her Majesty’s realm of Antigua and Barbuda, to attend her funeral as a mark of respect, and in recognition of the great esteem in which the late Queen was held by the people of our nation.
May her soul rest in heavenly peace.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda, and consistent with the tenets of our Constitution that we are all sworn to uphold, I pledge our full support and allegiance to our new head of state, King Charles III, and wish him good health and a long and successful reign.
The King is no stranger to us, and I look forward to meeting him personally to convey our collective allegiance to him, and, at a personal level, to express our sincere condolences on the loss of his mother – a loss with which each of us can deeply sympathize.