WESTMINSTER, United Kingdom – Tributes were paid at the House of Commons today to HM Queen Elizabeth II, who became Britain's longest reigning monarch ever. She beat Queen Victoria by notching up 63 years and 218 days, in a job that includes being head of Church of England.
The first backbencher to speak was Sir Gerald Howarth MP, Parliamentary Chairman of the Thatcherite pressure group, Conservative Way Forward. In his speech he pointed out that in addition to her work as head of state the Queen was also “Defender of the Faith” having sworn on her coronation day to protect Christianity in Britain.
He told the House of Commons: “Her majesty has lived up to her coronation oath more faithfully than any other former sovereign of this realm.
“She has been an inspiration to us in her faith and I think all of us sit down at Christmas time and enjoy Her Majesty's Christmas message. Not just to us and our constituents but to the entire Commonwealth and the world.
“It is her faith which shines through unequivocally but quietly in her Christmas message, and I think it is her faith which has given her the strength to do all that she has done for our country. We should be a very grateful nation indeed to be served by a sovereign of such faith and such commitment as Elizabeth II.”
In the past it had been suggested that future monarchs may set aside the part of the oath that relates to Christianity and instead become the “Defender of Faiths” including every religion. However, recently Prince Charles has confirmed that he will continue his mothers work as protector of the Christian faith and leader of the Church of England.
Under the patronage of the Queen the Church of England enjoys a number of special rights including the appointment of 26 Bishops to the House of Lords. The Bishops use their seats to amend legislation in order to protect the rights of Christians and stand up for family values.
In his statement the Prime Minister to put on record the country's thanks for the Queen's “remarkable” service. He said: “Millions of people across Britain will today mark the historic moment when Queen Elizabeth becomes our longest serving monarch.
“Over the last 63 years, Her Majesty has been a rock of stability in a world of constant change and her selfless sense of service and duty has earned admiration not only in Britain, but right across the globe.
“It is only right that today we should celebrate her extraordinary record, as well as the grace and dignity with which she serves our country.”
He also paid tribute to the way she has built up the Commonwealth of Nations from seven members in 1952 to 53 today. The body has gone though a series of changes during her reign, most notably that most members have become independent countries.
Despite the celebrations in London the Queen was in Scotland opening a new railway. The 89-year-old spoke of the "touching messages of kindness" she had received today. She went on to say the title of Queen was "not one to which I have ever aspired", a nod to the fact she would not have inherited the throne at all had her uncle not abdicated.