Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen – I did just want to begin by thanking you most warmly for having invited my wife and myself to join you for this very special occasion and special celebration.
I first visited this most friendly and special of countries some thirty-six years ago and have been drawn back time and again by the remarkable generosity, hospitality and courteousness for which Jordan is rightly famed. As the Jordanian poet Haidar Mahmoud has written:-
"It suffices my country that it was founded on the basis of love"
To be here with you this year is especially significant. After the sorrow, separation, and grief, which Covid has brought us all, it is with that special joy of being once again among friends that we have begun our first overseas tour in nearly two years. That we should do so here in Jordan, to join you in celebrating the centenary year of Jordan’s founding, means more to us than I can possibly say.
As we celebrate these past one hundred years, Ladies and Gentlemen, it seems to me to be particularly fitting that we should do so in this marvellous museum. The precious treasures housed in these galleries remind us that while Jordan is a century old, it is underpinned by such a long and rich history. Indeed, the human statues of ‘Ain Ghazal, some of the oldest depictions of the human form found anywhere on Earth, suggest that people living in what is now Amman were contemplating their own existence seven thousand years before the birth of Christ.
On these ancient foundations modern Jordan was built. The epic struggle for independence would lay down a defining chapter in the extraordinary history of this land. And, of course, it was amidst this struggle that the enduring friendship between our two countries was forged.
There can be little doubt that the Great Arab Revolt led by Hashemite Sharif Al Hussein Bin Ali, changed the face of the Middle East. T.E. Lawrence’s chronicles of their struggle gave the Arab forces a near-mythical place in British memory, and indeed across the world. But the battered carriage from the Hijaz railway, which rests outside this museum, reminds us that their acts of courage were no myth. Those historic events, which saw British soldiers fighting side by side with their Arab partners, laid the foundation for the eventual establishment of the Jordanian state.
That early cooperation evolved over the years – albeit with challenges along the way – into a friendship in the truest sense, embodied by the close cooperation of our governments, institutions and armed forces; and the warm ties between our people, politicians, scientists and students.
I feel this friendship in the most personal of ways, as Jordan has always been a part of my life. His Majesty King Hussein came to the throne in 1952, the same year as my dear mother, The Queen. They would be of great mutual support to each other through the decades ahead. I had the greatest affection for His Late Majesty and, in 1999, I was greatly touched to have been asked to give the address at the London memorial service for His Majesty King Hussein in St. Paul’s Cathedral.
On that occasion, almost unprecedented for a foreign leader, I remembered His Majesty King Hussein’s “enlightened spirit which was in harmony with those who, in earlier periods of history, were able instinctively to respect the followers of other faiths for their piety and moral character, even if they did not accept them theologically.” With Prince Ghazi at the Baptism place of Christ himself yesterday, I saw this great tradition – now so dreadfully and tragically dismembered by the forces of intolerance and hatred – continued in the most moving way.
Over the last twenty-two years, under the leadership of King Abdullah II, we have continued to look to Jordan not only as a friend but, as in the time of his father, as a constant voice of moderation, understanding and tolerance. In this regard, His Majesty’s role as Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem is a vital element in the search for peace in the region.
Another Jordanian poet, Habib al Zyodi, captured Jordan’s spirit of peace and compassion:
"The gallant Jordanians [the ‘Neshaama’] all of whom have filled time, shone and brightened //
have loaded my heart with peace, as if they had clothed me in a cloak."
Many could say those same lines today. My wife and I have seen again how much Jordan is doing to help those who have been forced to seek refuge here from conflict in neighbouring countries. Jordan’s unflinching and generous hospitality, with the help of the international community, is truly humbling. You offer not only a safe haven for refugees but – through education – hope and opportunity for the future.
At the same time, as I have seen at firsthand yesterday, our Armed Forces continue to live together, train together and serve alongside one another to protect our people. Sadly, in this turbulent world, this is a duty that must continue to be borne, and we are deeply grateful for their service.
I know that Jordan, like my own country, has been marked over the past two years by the Covid-19 pandemic. I feel particularly for those who have lost loved ones and for the impact on young people who have lost education or are struggling to find work. But I have been greatly heartened to hear how the U.K. has supported Jordan to protect the most vulnerable during this difficult time and to meet those who are contributing to the work of rebuilding after the pandemic – the entrepreneurs who are creating jobs; female role models inspiring young women to follow in their footsteps; and organizations like the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, of which I am the proud Founding Patron, working to provide jobs and training while sustaining Jordan’s remarkable heritage.
I was especially proud to meet some of those who have benefitted from programmes run by another of my charities, Prince’s Trust International, which is helping young people into work placements and enabling the development of Jordan’s culture of entrepreneurship.
As both our countries build back after Covid-19, I need hardly say that we must place a priority as we have never done before on protection of our environment. I know that Jordan, as one of the countries hardest hit by water scarcity, feels the consequences of climate change keenly – and it also has a role to play in mitigating them. I have recently attended the COP26 climate summit in the U.K., where some important steps were taken to limit the global rise in temperatures. Success will require the sustained commitment of the global community to ensure that countries like Jordan have the support they need to find ways of adapting somehow to a changing climate.
As King Abdullah has said, challenges like the pandemic and climate change do not stop at national borders, and nor must our efforts to address them.
In celebrating the last hundred years, we must therefore also look to the future. As the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and its people write further remarkable chapters in the history of this land, I trust that the enduring friendship between our two countries will continue to play its part in the story. For I have no doubt that the United Kingdom and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will continue to work together, not only through our governments, but also through the countless individual human contributions and contacts between our peoples which make up this special partnership.
And so, although one hundred years is a fair old age, I can only say, like Shakespeare, that – “To me, fair friend, you never can be old” – and look forward to the next century of our friendship.
"Wa tastamir al maseera!" (‘The march continues’ – Jordan’s centenary slogan)