A tremendously sad day that I was honoured to be able to witness

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Column by Councillor Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council.

Matthew HicksI felt so very moved by Monday’s state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect and share my thoughts on what it meant to me and, I suspect, millions of people around the world.

First, I would like to commend the Royal Family, the armed forces, police, Government, religious leaders and civilian organisations for delivering a funeral fit for a Monarch of Her Majesty’s grace, warmth and commitment to tradition. It was a privilege to be able to sit at home watching every detail of this very sad but, at the same time, inspiring demonstration of the depth of love and affection within which so many people hold her late Majesty.

And detail there was – from the smartness of the uniforms, the crisp sound of the trumpets, to the myrtle in her wreath grown from the Queen’s own wedding bouquet, every tiny detail was meticulous, dignified and, rightly, beautiful.

Then there was the great British public (and many visitors) who lined the route from the Westminster Hall to the Abbey and then through the streets of central London all the way to Windsor Castle – her final resting place beside her beloved husband, The Duke of Edinburgh. I got such a sense of the occasion from watching the faces of people from all walks of life coming together for this very powerful and historic - yet personal - moment that we all shared. Yes people were sad, but also honoured to be there to see it with their own eyes. I feel tremendously proud to be British and a subject of the Monarchy.

I felt that exact same feeling of pride when I joined the queue to pay my respects to Her Majesty last week. As the hours passed and we moved closer to Westminster Hall, the feeling of anticipation in the crowd intensified. It has been said many times that you could hear a pin drop in that great echoing hall. It is true though. As I walked down the stone steps, the respectful silence enveloped your senses – such was the magnitude of the moment for the people who were quietly passing by her coffin.

Despite His Majesty The King mourning the loss of his mother and an inspirational role model, it is heartening to see his resolve to follow in her footsteps of devotion to serving the people. His speech to the nation made it very clear that although her reign had ended and his was just beginning, that commitment is as strong today and it has been for the past 70 years. I hope that gives people comfort at this difficult time.

It is fair to say that the past few years have been polarising in many ways, with people divided over topical issues. I believe one of Her Majesty’s legacies – unity – may have been started in the these past 10 days. People from all walks of life have come together in grief and memory of a ‘life well lived’. I don’t think you need to be a royalist to appreciate the contribution Queen Elizabeth II made to this country, the Commonwealth and the wider world. It is certainly my hope that this unity continues and makes a powerful contribution of our collective efforts to make the world a better place tomorrow.

Whilst yesterday was a tremendously sad day, I feel honoured to have been able to witness it alongside everyone else. It will be a memory that stays with me forever. We have been fortunate to have experienced the strength and commitment of the second Elizabethan era. Now it is time for us all to continue her legacy, in Her Majesty’s honour. Thank you Ma’am, rest in peace. God Save the King.