OPINION - Sadiq Khan: A year on, the memory of our late, brilliant Queen still inspires me deeply

The late Queen hands England captain Bobby Moore the World Cup after leading his team to victory in 1966 (PA)
The late Queen hands England captain Bobby Moore the World Cup after leading his team to victory in 1966 (PA)

When I first heard about the late Queen’s passing I was at the London Fire Brigade offices in London. It was a day that began like most others, with lots of meetings, but nothing out of the ordinary.

We had been made aware of Her Majesty’s deteriorating health, but nothing could possibly prepare for the shock and deep sadness when my Chief of Staff informed me of her death.

A year on from that day, I still vividly remember the incredible tributes to Her Majesty that followed.

The hundreds of thousands of people who travelled from around the world to our capital to show their respects. The crowds that lined the streets and gathered in Hyde Park for the ceremonial procession, the miles-long queue of all ages who waited for hours around the clock to pay their respects at the lying-in-state, and people finding every possible vantage point for the state funeral.

It was an honour to be in Westminster Abbey for that incredibly poignant and unforgettable funeral service as the nation said a final thank you for 96 years of impeccable public service.

The outpouring of grief, sorrow and affection that we witnessed over those 10 days of national mourning showed the monumental impact that the late Queen had on so many lives.

Our longest-reigning monarch stood alongside us with grace, dignity and purpose during 70 years of huge change for the country and world.

From technology to industry, and the economy to our social lives, Her Majesty witnessed unprecedented transformation that no-one could have imagined when she took to the throne.

The Queen was there to share our brightest days but also our darkest hours, never faltering, wavering or relenting from her selfless promise to devote her whole life to our service.

Throughout it all, she was a source of great stability and continuity, a wise and unique counsel for 15 prime ministers, inspiring hope and exemplifying the best of what it means to be British.

She saw the country rebuild after the Second World War, with the help of the Windrush Generation and other migrants at a time of great social change, and witnessed peace brokered in Northern Ireland.

She handed Bobby Moore the World Cup at Wembley in 1966 — seen by most as England’s greatest-ever sporting moment, she surprised us all by appearing alongside Daniel Craig as James Bond for the opening ceremony to the London 2012 Olympics, and opened the Elizabeth Line last year — one of London’s abiding tributes to her reign.

I’m immensely proud to have had the opportunity to serve as Mayor of London while she was our monarch and to have been able to thank her on behalf of Londoners for all that she achieved for us.

One of my earliest and fondest memories was as a six-year-old lining the streets as Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee procession wound its way past our council estate in Earlsfield.

I remember eagerly awaiting by the roadside, beaming from ear to ear with family, friends and neighbours as we tried to get a glimpse of the Queen. We had Union flags in hand and paper crowns on our heads and took an immense pride in being British.

My parents were not born in the UK but were so proud of being accepted and having Her Majesty as their Queen

My parents were not born in the UK but were so proud of being accepted by this country, of raising their family in London and of having Her Majesty as their Queen. It’s a sense of patriotism that I inherited and will always have with me.

I will never forget the honour of swearing my oath of allegiance to the Queen as a Member of Parliament and of becoming a member of her Privy Council. I remember being very nervous that day as I clutched a koran to swear my oath, but Her Majesty had such a unique way of putting you at ease and making you feel special.

The Queen’s authentic humility, human touch and good humour brought a calm, understated leadership to our country that we can all learn so much from.

I’m sure that she would be immensely proud of the way her son has taken over the momentous responsibility in the last year. The King served his apprenticeship under the wisest of mentors and his fantastic service, continuing his mother’s legacy, will forever be the most fitting possible tribute.

Sadiq Khan is the Mayor of London.