Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I must say it is a great privilege for me to be able to represent Her Majesty, Head of The Commonwealth here at this Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and I am enormously grateful to the Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands for his very kind toast which I shall ensure is reported back to Her Majesty when we return.
And I’m also most grateful to the Prime Minister of Malta, because when he was speaking it reminded me that I have actually visited an enormous number of Commonwealth countries in the last 60 years. And in 1954 I remember my sister and I went over to Gibraltar, Malta and then on to Dubruck to meet The Queen and Prince Philip at the end of their Coronation cruise.
So, I think I’ve been around longer than some people realize. And I looked up the other day just how many countries I have visited in that 60 years, it’s now 41 countries out of the 53 in the Commonwealth in something like 151 official, unofficial or even Royal Naval visits, because again I have got to that age where I am so old, that people have forgotten that I actually served in the Royal Navy, all those years ago. And not only that, but officiated on behalf of The Queen at Independence celebrations, for instance of The Bahamas, and I remember in those days I was young enough to be able to attend three - not one - but three, Independence Balls in the same night! That was quite an undertaking and I have never forgotten dancing with Mrs Pindling, who was the wife of the then Prime Minister of the Bahamas, and a whole lot of other remarkable ladies in The Bahamas.
And then, also, I remember, represented The Queen at the Independence ceremony of Fiji, and indeed Zimbabwe. So I have been around, here and there over the years and when I was in Malta on one occasion I remember Mr Dom Mintoff, who was a remarkable Prime Minister, invited me to go water skiing with him, and he was very keen on water skiing but he was one of those people who go on and on water skiing for hours and hours. And I remember he wore this extraordinary bath hat, bathing hat, and put wax plugs in his ears. Anyway we solemnly waterskied around most of Malta, until I could bear it no longer and dropped off, and let go of the rope and he went on. I never saw him again!
But it was something that has remained deeply imprinted on my memory. It also reminds me, Ladies and Gentlemen, very briefly of the number of Commonwealth leaders that I have met in those 60 years and when I think that I remember Sir Robert Menzies in Australia all those years ago. He was responsible for suggesting that I should be sent to school in Australia for six months, and look what it's done to me!
I also remember so many others, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who came to visit The Queen at Balmoral when I was quite young, and gave me the most remarkable set of bow and arrows which I remember firing busily into trees and we never could get the arrows out! Dr. Julius Nyerere, Dr. Hastings Banda who I remember welcoming me to Malawi all those years ago and he brought one million people on to the streets, I have never forgotten, and I thought for a moment I was frightfully popular! But he was another remarkable man.
And also, President Kenyatta, not the son, the father, who I remember 40 years ago in Kenya calling on him I think in 1971 or something and I have never forgotten that conversation I had with him then, and Dr Kenneth Kaunda who was always very kind to me I remember when I went to Zambia and every time I saw him and I am so glad that he is still going strong. And still in remarkable form. Then there's Pierre Trudeau and many others besides. So Ladies and Gentlemen, I just wanted to say that the result of all this, over all these years, is that I feel very much part of a family, and it is in my blood I hate to tell you.
I have been brought up in the family with all the stories about it, and all the accounts, and all the reminiscences, and everything else over so many years and I think that what we are renewing here are those family ties, those family associations, and most of all those family values, if I may say so, and I feel proud and enormously privileged to be a part of it all.