‘Our Rock in hard times’
This is the full text of a statement made by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo following the death of Queen Elizabeth II
My dear fellow Gibraltarians and residents of Gibraltar,
The death of Queen Elizabeth the Second has been a dreadful blow for all British people and for the people of all Her Realms and Commonwealth.
The whole of Gibraltar is under a cloud of sorrow today. We are united in mourning.
All of the British people and the British family of nations mourn the loss of our Queen and the end of the Second Elizabethan era.
For the next ten days and beyond we will be mourning the passing of our beloved sovereign. The Queen of Gibraltar.
A position Elizabeth the Second held not just in our hearts but in our laws also.
And Gibraltar, as the only Primary Saluting Battery outside of the United Kingdom, has today seen the Royal Gibraltar Regiment perform a seamless death gun salute at the tower.
96 rounds were fired. One for each year of Queen Elizabeth’s long life.
Our beloved and respected Royal Gibraltar Regiment guarded our sovereign earlier this year.
Today they have done us all proud under the command of Gibraltarian Major Charles Bonfante.
Tomorrow, also at 1pm, the Regiment will fire a 21-gun salute in honour of the Proclamation in London of the new King, Charles The Third, King of Gibraltar.
In reflecting with you on the depth of our mourning I would echo the words yesterday of the newly appointed Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP.
Barely two days after She was appointed by Queen Elizabeth The Second, the Prime Minister said that Her Majesty had been “[T]he Rock on which modern Britain was built.”
I agree. I am sure we all do. But I go one further. She was our Queen.
Gibraltar was her Rock. And She was ours.
As she had said of her own husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, she was our strength and stay.
Our Rock in hard times.
And in all her time on the throne, Her Majesty was consistently known to have cared deeply for her people in Gibraltar.
We cherished her visit in 1954. A visit that left an indelible mark on our small, then emerging, nation and carved between our Sovereign and the Gibraltarians a special relationship without equal.
In its own way, her visit cast the die for the years ahead of us in a way that has served to define us and further cement our loyalty to the Crown.
A loyalty which she reciprocated to us and all our fellow British subjects.
Upon her accession to the throne, when Queen Elizabeth devoted her life to service, she expressed her commitment as being for life.
She became an example of service and respect for the rule of law.
Most recently she demonstrated that by stoically abiding by COVID rules to mourn the love of her life, the Duke of Edinburgh alone.
And she has demonstrated that also by serving literally until the last hours of her life.
48 hours or so before her death, she was asking Ms Truss to form a Government.
She had been served by 15 Prime Ministers.
She had been served by six Chief Ministers of Gibraltar.
She had countless other premiers, prime minister and first ministers in her service throughout her realms and Commonwealth.
But she was also a mother, a grandmother and a great grandmother.
And today we extend our condolences also to the members of her family who are mourning not just a monarch, but a matriarch and a mother also.
I do so on behalf of all members of His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar, all ministers, all members of the Parliament as well as all civil servants and all the public service as well.
And indeed on behalf of every single Gibraltarian and every resident of Gibraltar.
In reflecting for Gibraltar on Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime of service, I think we must reflect on the fact that she was the Queen of all our Constitutions to date.
As our Queen, she was the Head of our Executive and we were expressly one of Her Dominions.
It was under her hand that those Orders in Council were made.
Each step in our journey to greater self-government to date was established and entrenched in her time on the throne.
We were emancipated to the autonomy we have today in the glorious Second Elizabethan era.
So modern Gibraltar’s abject devotion to the Crown has been fashioned by her reign.
We have enjoyed the fruits of the stability and consistency of her long reign, the longest of any British Monarch to date.
Yet, even on this saddest of days, we will also want to remember our Queen with a smile also.
What better epitaphs to this monarch of ours than her stylish stint with James Bond at the 2012 Olympic Opening ceremony in London.
Or the more recent short with Paddington Bear as we all celebrated her Platinum Jubilee.
I am sure we will all want to remember her impish smile as Paddington poured tea at Buckingham Palace.
And her welcoming smile at Balmoral for her new Prime Minister, the third woman she would ask to form a Government.
She certainly had style and panache in abundance.
She displayed that style and panache in all her public acts and engagements.
For all those reasons and many more, Her Majesty will be forever in our hearts.
In fact, as the post war period developed and restrictions from General Franco bit harder and harder, the devotion and loyalty of the British People of Gibraltar for Queen Elizabeth as the embodiment of the Crown grew deeper and deeper.
Closer and closer. Stronger and stronger.
And those bonds have been tied so tight by her that they are cemented for ever and will only deepen evermore under our new monarch and his successors to come.
My dear friends, today is the eve of our saddest National Day.
Although we will not be celebrating National Day in the traditional way this year, I do want to wish everybody in Gibraltar a happy day, however tinged with sadness it may be as a result of the death of our beloved Queen Elizabeth.
I know that the cancellation of National Day is also a severe blow, given how keen we all were to celebrate together again for the first time since 2019 after the pandemic.
This year is the 30th Anniversary of the first National Day celebration.
For tomorrow, Her Majesty the Queen had sent me a message which I was to read to all those assembled at Casemates.
It was a message already delivered before her death.
Her Majesty communicated her message through her beloved former ADC, the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel.
Her message reads as follows: “As you celebrate the important occasion of your National Day, I would like to congratulate you Chief Minister, and send my good wishes to the people of Gibraltar. As we overcome global health challenges together with determination and fortitude, may we look to better times in the future. Elizabeth R”.
I know we will cherish that message forever from our beloved Queen Elizabeth.
This year we will be a nation that will still be red and white.
But we will be as sad as we are proud.
In great measure as a result of our special relationship with Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family, we shall be no less red, white and blue. No less red, white and proud. And no less red, white and free.
Because that freedom is what the Elizabethan era has delivered to us.
Tomorrow, when I am not on official government business, I will still wear red and white, with a black ribbon also to remember the loss of our Queen.
And so today, I want you all to join me in dedicating the 30th Gibraltar National Day to the memory of Queen Elizabeth II.
To celebrate her memory. To give thanks for her life, her commitment to duty and her dedication to all the British people.
And to commemorate her by dedicating our most precious day to her.
Tomorrow we will commemorate the day in a more muted way.
The Gibraltar flag will fly over the Foreign Office in London.
It will fly at full mast – as tomorrow King Charles The Third will be proclaimed King in London.
I have also just received a letter from the Prime Minister congratulating us on our 30th National Day and sharing in her sorrow with the People of Gibraltar.
So I urge you to enjoy the day tomorrow with your family and friends, tinged with sadness as it will be, commemorating the great memory of our former sovereign.
Do so respectfully, with your families and friends, whether in beaches, homes or restaurants around our nation.
I ask that at an appropriate time during your meal, you should all respectfully toast the memory of our deceased, beloved Queen Elizabeth.
And I ask that we should also all toast the good health and success of our new monarch and Sovereign, King Charles III, King of Gibraltar.
The formal Proclamation of King Charles as King of Gibraltar will happen in Gibraltar on Sunday at noon at the Convent.
This event will be streamed live to the screens at Casemates.
On Sunday, all our flags will fly at full mast for one day only.
Then we will revert to half-mast until the end of mourning the day after Queen Elizabeth’s funeral.
In days to come after the Proclamation we will have time to reflect also on our declaration of allegiance and loyalty to His Majesty, King Charles III, King of Gibraltar.
A new Carolian era beckons.
For now, I know that you all join me in wishing that Queen Elizabeth II rest in eternal peace.
God Bless Gibraltar. God Save The King. Long Live the King.