This week, I took a walk around the constituency to the various sites and locations in Richmond Park connected to Her Majesty the Queen. Our community has strong ties to the Royal Family that few people know about. From the Elizabeth Gate at Kew Gardens to the Richmond Riverside and the Bentall Centre in Kingston, if you know what you are looking for, you can see her Majesty’s presence everywhere across our little corner of London.
Richmond Park was Queen Elizabeth’s first home as a young child, and indeed, the constituency has played host to future kings and queens for more than a century. During this time of mourning, it was cheering to be able to spend time remembering how she touched all our lives here.
As I mention in my video, the Queen visited the area many times, including several visits to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew. In addition to public events there, the Queen also came to Kew Gardens for a private dinner celebrating her 80th birthday.
The Queen visited Kew in 1959 to celebrate the Gardens' 200th anniversary. She opened the Queen's Garden of Kew Palace there in 1969 and came again in 1977 to view the extensive restoration of the Temperate House. In 2004 she returned to celebrate Kew Gardens being named a World Heritage Site.
In May 2009 the Queen was presented with a specially bred rose (a white-flowered English musk hybrid) to recognise her support for the gardens. The royal couple also planted two trees on that occasion to commemorate Kew Gardens' 250th anniversary.
Left to right: 1977 Restoration of the Temperate House, 1959 200th anniversary visit, 2004 Designation of Kew as a World Heritage Site. All photos @RBG, Kew.
In my video tour I also mentioned two other locations that were important to the Queen: The London Wetland Centre in Barnes and the Coronation Stone in Kingston.
The Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames was granted royal borough status in 1927 by King George V in recognition of the seven Saxon kings crowned here in the 10th century. A thousand years later Her Majesty the Queen came to view the site where her predecessors were crowned - the Coronation Stone (below left.)
On the other side of my constituency, the Queen was a Patron of the London Wetland Centre from its founding. You can see how very much she enjoyed her visits to this treasured oasis of wildlife in the photograph on the right below.
The Queen visited many other sites of importance in Richmond and Kingston throughout her reign, including the Marketplace in Kingston (below left) and the Poppy Factory in Richmond (below right).
Many of my constituents will remember the Queen's exquisite royal rowbarge, the Gloriana, being built in Richmond to commemorate her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Those who were living here then will remember the stirring sight of the gilded Gloriana coming down the river during the Jubilee and the 2012 Olympics. The boat, now draped in black, was spotted by one of our Barnes councillors this morning slipping under Hammersmith Bridge on its way to Windsor.
Many of my constituents wrote to me this week with their own memories of the Queen and their thoughts about her place in our lives.
Kingston Councillor Noel Hadjimichael attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Perth, Australia in 2011. He says: "Her Majesty showed great sensitivity to quote a local first nations proverb to open proceedings: 'We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love ... and then we return home.' The 16 and 18 year olds in my group were deeply touched by the emotional intelligence of someone they considered both an icon and a wise grandmother."
Other residents offered these remarks about Her Majesty:
"She and I were both born in 1926 and she has always meant a lot to me, although I only saw her in person twice. I like to think of her footloose and fancy-free now, reunited with those she loved and who died before her - those with four legs as well as those with two. We were very lucky to have had her."
“The Queen was devoted to serving others and frequently reminded the nation of the importance of community and caring for each other. This is a time of loss for us all.”
"How lucky we were to have a Monarch like Queen Elizabeth II. Her whole life selflessly revolved around her duties to the country and her family, and she got that balance right. She was loved and respected by all."
"I felt a particular affinity with the Queen because my birthday was the same date as hers apart from the year. I was about 7 when she came to the throne and I remember going to a neighbour's house with my parents to see her coronation because they had a television, a tiny screen with a magnifying blob of glass over it. I realised that it was a very important event. I also remember the death of her father. I was coming home for lunch from school when I met a boy who said, ‘The King is dead’. When I got home I said to my mother, ‘The King is dead.’ My little sister, who was three, burst into tears."
"Throughout her reign, she has set a perfect example of how to behave with dignity, compassion and humour. She must have had to endure many long, dreary, boring events but there was never a hint of this. She will be sadly missed and our lives will have a little less joy in them."
I myself had the privilege of giving tribute to the Queen in Parliament on behalf of all of my constituents last Saturday.
I offered my personal memory of the Queen’s message at the beginning of the first Covid-19 lockdown, which was, “We will meet again.”
Her message that the road ahead might not be visible, but that we would get to the other side, resonated deeply with me at a time of great uncertainty, especially coming from someone who lived through so many national tragedies.
Looking ahead to how we will lay Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to rest over the coming days, I first want to make sure all of my constituents are aware that there will be a National Moment of Reflection at 8pm, this Sunday 18 September, the day before her state funeral, to reflect on Her Majesty’s life and legacy. This will be marked with a nation-wide one-minute silence.
Constituents who would like to attend national ceremonial events to mark the Queen's passing will want to know that the GOV.UK website is being regularly updated with information on the events, including the Lying-in-State which has already begun. Transport for London has issued travel advice for the Mourning Period. There are large crowds in London and constituents are advised to click the link above to check for delays, diversions and special measures in place before setting out.
Locally, both the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames and the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames will be holding civic services of commemoration this Sunday.
The Mayor of Richmond upon Thames will host Richmond's civic service at St. Mary’s Church in Twickenham at 6pm this Sunday. This service will be led by The Mayor’s Chaplain, The Reverend Jeffrey Hopkin Williams and Bishop Graham Tomlin. They will be joined by Robert Bieber representing the Jewish community. The capacity of St Mary's church is approximately 600 people and seats will be allocated on a first come first served basis. However the service will also be live streamed on this webpage.
The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames will be holding its service at All Saints Church in Kingston at 6pm on Sunday. Residents can book tickets to attend but the venue capacity is limited to 500. For those who cannot attend in person, this service will also be live streamed on the All Saints Church YouTube channel from 6pm.
Following the Queen's state funeral at Westminster Abbey at 11:00 on Monday Her Majesty will be carried to Windsor Castle for the committal service at 4:00pm. Later that evening the Dean of Windsor will conduct a private burial service with the King and members of the Royal family. The Queen will then be laid to her final rest next to Prince Phillip at the King George VI Memorial Chapel.
May she rest there in eternal peace after her long life of unwavering service and devotion to her kingdom and her subjects.