Avatar photo

Philip Parham

UK Commonwealth Envoy, former British Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates

Part of UK in UAE

21st April 2016 London, UK

UK Ambassador to the UAE on the occasion of The Queen’s 90th Birthday

QBP 2016 Abu Dhabi

Your Highness[es], Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen: welcome – from me and from my wife Kasia – to our goodly manor, this towered citadel, for this celebration of the 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

A particular and very big thank you to you, Your Highness Sheikh Nahayyan bin Mubarak Al Nahayyan, and to Your Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qassimi, for honouring us with your presence this evening. You are both tireless and inspiring advocates of excellent causes, within and beyond the UAE.
In fact, a diplomatic colleague and I were standing beneath the evening sky here a few weeks ago when a helicopter flew close overhead. We both agreed that, one hundred to one on, the helicopter was being flown by His Highness Sheikh Nahayyan en route to his tenth engagement that day, relentlessly criss-crossing the emirates to promote the common good.
And, Your Highness, I have to say – Sheikha Lubna gives you some hot competition. Barely a day goes by when she is not at one forum or another making the case for women’s empowerment (which she herself exemplifies), for education and professionalism, for giving and generosity, and now of course particularly (in her new role) for tolerance.

And at the heart of the causes which you both promote is the intrinsic value of each individual human person – however different, however weak, however vulnerable. The more we all together uphold that value, the more we will overcome the inhuman threats to civilisation which, sadly, we all face today.
In our minds this evening is someone else who has devoted a life to public service and the common good. We are here to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen, her 90th birthday, and her United Kingdom.
Her Majesty gives even Sheikh Nahayyan and Sheikha Lubna a run for their money, with her patronage of 600 charities and organisations, and around 15,000 public engagements in the last 30 years (that is: in just the last third of her life so far).
Her Majesty is the 40th English monarch since the arrival of her 27-times-great-grandfather William Duke of Normandy in 1066. (It is important to remember, incidentally, that William was a Viking, not a Frenchman).
Last September, the Queen became the longest serving of all those 40 English monarchs. She has now reigned for over 64 years.

And on Thursday, she will be 90 years old.
That’s easy enough to say. But let’s ponder what that means. This month also marks four centuries since Shakespeare’s death – a long stretch of time, but Her Majesty has been alive for almost one quarter of it.
It is approaching two centuries since the British state first dealt with the Qawasim and the Al Nahayyan – the great families represented here this evening by Sheikha Lubna and Sheikh Nahayyan. Her Majesty’s life spans almost half of that long history.
During her 64 year reign, the Queen has seen – perhaps (at least in some cases) seen off – twelve Prime Ministers starting with Churchill, twelve US Presidents starting with Truman, seven Archbishops of Canterbury and seven Popes.
After her Coronation, she made this pledge to her people: “Throughout all my life and with all my heart, I shall strive to be worthy of your trust”. She might well have thought, “I would not be a queen for all the world.” But in fact she had all the royal makings of a queen.
And at her Silver Jubilee, she said: “When I was twenty-one, I pledged my life to the service of our people, and I asked for God’s help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret nor retract one word of it.”
Your Highness, Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen: what an example she has given! And how proud we Brits should be of her! How proud we are of her! Proud in heart and mind.
And let us not forget her unifying role as Head of the Commonwealth, a free association of 53 nations comprising nearly one third of the world’s population.
After her wedding in 1947, the Queen sent her bouquet to be laid at the grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. We think of that gesture as we approach the centenary of the slaughter on the Somme in 1916 – and indeed, as we remember the many Emiratis who have lost their lives in conflict since we were last gathered here to celebrate the Queen’s birthday.
Today marks another anniversary which I cannot resist mentioning. On this day in 1587, Sir Francis Drake – known to our first Queen Elizabeth as “my deare pyrat” – singed the King of Spain’s beard by sailing boldly into Cadiz and disrupting preparations for the Armada – giving England another year to bolster its defences and so preserve itself. What a good thing that was!
Returning to the present, I am very proud and grateful that this event is sponsored by four British companies who bring Great British excellence and style to relations between the UK and the UAE: BP, Atkins, Serco and Aston Martin.
BP have played a key role in Abu Dhabi’s development over nearly 8 decades – not just by bringing to bear their global expertise and technical capability in the exploration and production of oil and gas, but also through their broader development of social and economic infrastructure, and their transfers of technology and expertise. They have truly been strategic partners of Abu Dhabi, and continue to be so.
For 40 years, Atkins’ architects, engineers and project managers have been shaping city skylines, building iconic structures and transforming communities through energy, infrastructure and mass transit. Atkins are supporting ENEC’s work to deliver safe, efficient and reliable nuclear energy for the UAE. Burj al Arab and Dubai Metro are their projects. So is Yas Waterworld for which many of you parents should be deeply thankful. (And even the normally sedate British Ambassador has enjoyed splashing around in it).
Serco has been in this region for almost seven decades, delivering services from air traffic control to public transport to facility management. In the very best British way, it combines commercial know-how with a deep public service ethos. Its hallmark is proven excellence as operator, manager or consultant. And its range stretches from defence and aviation to health and education, from science and knowledge services to welfare and local government. And incidentally (remembering why we’re all here this evening) Serco’s CEO is a grandson of the Queen’s first Prime Minister.
I’m not sure Aston Martin needs much introduction. Some of you may have thought you were wandering onto a James Bond set this evening – and, as we know from the opening of the London 2012 Olympics, Her Majesty and Mr Bond are close collaborators. And an Aston Martin featured in her early family life with Prince Philip – a 1954 Lagonda 3 litre Drophead Coupe, to be precise for the experts. Until recently, Aston Martin has unaccountably been more focused on Dubai. But they are now preparing to open a new showroom in Abu Dhabi – in Etihad Towers. If you want to win an Aston Martin for a weekend, leave a business card with the team just outside the garden entrance, who can tell you more about the new showroom and the cars we have here this evening.
BP, Atkins, Serco and Aston Martin are just four of the thousands of excellent British companies working in the UAE. I am immensely proud of what all those companies – and the 120,000 Brits living in the UAE, and the million Brits visiting every year – are doing to build up British-Emirati partnership: partnership which – as His Highness Sheikh Khalifa said during his 2013 state visit to the UK – is founded on “deep-rooted and steadfast friendship”.
I was honoured to touch some of those deep roots when I joined the condolences in January for Bin Ghobaisha, one of the two close companions of Wilfred Thesiger – M’barak bin London – in his historic treks across the Empty Quarter nearly 70 years ago.
And I was privileged to hear deep reminiscence about British involvement with Sheikh Zayed and this emirate when His Excellency Sheikh Musallem bin Salim Bin Ham Al Ameri and his son Sheikh Mohammed generously hosted me in Al Ain and Al Waqn in February.
That fascinating outing, incidentally, included milking a camel and immediately consuming the product. Which I strongly recommend. It was far from “milk my ewes and weep”.
I also recommend a visit to the Wilfred Thesiger exhibition at the Jahili Fort in Al Ain. That and the newly restored Mwaiji Fort bring home both the depth of the British relationship with Abu Dhabi, and the extraordinary speed at which the Emirates have evolved over the last 6 or 7 decades.
And, just as I am proud of the deep roots of British-Emirati friendship, I am proud of the role of Brits in that evolution – to pick just a few more examples:
– Brits designed Masdar City and Sheikh Zayed Bridge (and we all mourn the all too premature loss of Zaha Hadid: there’s a great spirit gone);
– Brits ran the projects for the new Abu Dhabi Port, the new Abu Dhabi Airport terminal and NYU Abu Dhabi;
– A British company design-engineered the Louvre Abu Dhabi;
– Brits run Emirates Airline and Dubai Airports;
– and the number of British schools and universities active in the UAE grows all the time. Three British universities have campuses here, seven more have other types of operation here; and four are involved with the British University in Dubai.
We Brits should be proud of all that. And we should proud of British higher education generally, of which so many thousands of Emiratis are alumni:
– four of the top eight universities in the world are British;
– UK universities and research institutions have produced 107 Nobel prizewinners;
– among other EU member states, only Germany has won more Nobel prizes than Trinity College Cambridge;
– and London is home to nearly 110,000 international students from 200 countries.
Talking of London, did you know that EY – Ernst & Young – have just designated London the leading global fintech hub?
And did you know that the UK received almost 30% of all Foreign Direct Investment into Europe in 2014?
If you didn’t, you do now. And, if you’re British, you should be proud of it.
Just as you should be proud that the UK, alone in the G7, is fulfilling its commitment to devote 0.7% of its Gross National Income to Overseas Development Assistance. (And that includes now over $3 billion to help Syrians fleeing the depredations of the Asad regime and its supporters, and the oppression of Da’esh.)
Be proud too of the very full part which we are also playing in the realm of hard security, and specifically security in this region.
In fact – last statistic of the evening: there are only two countries in the world which are contributing both at least 0.7% of National Income to overseas aid and at least 2% of GDP to defence: the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.
I am also delighted to tell you that next year we will highlight cultural collaboration between the UAE and the UK. The UKUAE2017 Year of Culture will include around 40 events here in the UAE showcasing British Art and Science, and likewise events showcasing the UAE in the UK. I am very grateful to the British Council, that excellent institution, which will play a central part in this celebration of human ties between the UK and UAE.

Talking of culture, many thanks to the Cantus choir and the four Shakespearean actors from Constellation Theatre whom you saw performing as you came in. On Saturday, the precise anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Constellation performance of Romeo & Juliet will form part of the Shakespeare Lives Global Moment at the DUCTAC Theatre in Dubai.

Many thanks also to Mike McGrath and his team at the Club who have yet again staged a great event for us; to MMI for the refreshments which all of you will enjoy in moderation; and to the excellent and very British Royal Marines Band.

Earlier, I referred briefly to the Somme. In the grim trenches of the Western Front, one book of poems was particularly popular among British soldiers – A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad. One of those poems had been written for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It is apt for us this evening. It reminds us that the continuity and progress of our Queen’s long reign represent the achievements of generations of individuals: back to the value of the individual, where we started. This is the poem:

From Clee to heaven the beacon burns,
The shires have seen it plain,
From north and south the sign returns
And beacons burn again.

Look left, look right, the hills are bright,
The dales are light between,
Because ‘tis fifty years tonight
That God has saved the Queen.

Now when the flame they watch not towers
About the soil they trod,
Lads, we’ll remember friends of ours
Who shared the work with God.

‘God save the Queen’ we living sing,
From height to height ‘tis heard;
And with the rest your voices ring,
Lads of the Fifty-third.

Oh, God will save her, fear you not:
Be you the men you’ve been,
Get you the sons your fathers got,
And God will save the Queen.

So, Your Highness, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen: with thanks and confidence and pride, I say: God save the Queen!

12 comments on “UK Ambassador to the UAE on the occasion of The Queen’s 90th Birthday

  1. And another – “a great spirit gone” Antony and Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 2
    Mark Antony:
    There’s a great spirit gone! Thus did I desire it:

    1. Congratulations! “A great spirit gone” is the other Shakespeare quote which I deliberately included, and you’ve found another unintentional one (“common good”). Communication about prizes to follow.

      1. Did not your father-in-law translate works of Shakespeare
        into Russian during his period of internal exile in Siberia ?
        I understand , or think I was told c March 1987 by 3 of yr sisters,
        in the Buttery of yr College at Oxford, that he did .

  2. The missing quote is “the common good” from Julius Caesar Act 5, scene 5:
    “Marcus Antonius:
    This was the noblest Roman of them all:
    All the conspirators, save only he,
    Did that they did in envy of great Caesar;
    He, only in a general honest thought
    And common good to all, made one of them”

    1. “Common good” comes out of old “Prayre” Books
      before Shakespeare started to write his plays .
      However , it is a phrase used in homilies,
      distinguishing with a difference from the Benthamite or Millsian
      Utilitarian phrase “the happiness of the greatest number ” .

  3. Found 8 shakespeare quotes:

    1. “goodly manor” ( all’s well that ends well)
    2. “towered citadel” (antony and cleopatra)
    3. “i would not be a queen for all the world” (henry VIII)
    4. “she had all the royal makings of a queen” (henry VIII)
    5. “my salad days, when I was green in judgment” (antony and cleopatra)
    6. “proud in heart and mind” (king lear)
    7. “milk my ewes and weep” (winter’s tale)
    8. “god save the queen” (Richard III)

    1. Well done! You’ve actually found one (“God save the Queen”) which I didn’t realise was a Shakespeare quote. So that’s a bonus. But can you find the eighth of my deliberate quotes to clinch the prize?

      1. So it seems THAT
        our beloved Queen was qietly taught some passages of Shakespeare’s works
        in her childhood & has also watched some Shakespearian drama .

        We were given some works of Shakespeare as set books
        as part of GCE O-level English Lit’ & A-level English during 1970s !
        I suspect that they were also prescribed as part of BA in English & B Litt .

  4. The 40th English monarch? I believe the last English monarch would have been Elizabeth I, who was succeeded by James VI of Scotland, becoming James I, following the Union of the Crowns.

    1. Many thanks! But a British Monarch is by definition an English Monarch – a fortiori. And, even if one were to reject that principle and take your rigorist approach, the last English Monarch would have been Anne: until the Act of Union, the Monarch was separately King (or Queen) of England and King (or Queen) of Scotland.

      1. Since 1601, the monarch has sat on 3 thrones in the British Isles,
        a personal Union of 3 Kingdoms (England , Scotland & Ireland),
        before any Act of Parliament united them by Statute .

        There was also a Commonwealth Union during the InterRegnum, 1650-60 , a Union of Commonwealths reliant almost entirely on force .
        Statutes & Orders of (or in) Council of 1650-60 were annulled afterwards .

        Then, betw 1707 & 1805, the 2 Acts of Union, the United Kingdom of Great Britain was created by the Union of the Kingdom of England & the Kingdom of Scotland,
        & Peerages & Baronetages of Great Britain were created ;
        there were Peerages (& Baronetages) of Ireland still being created ;
        Since 1805, after Act of Union 1805 creating UK of GB & Ireland,
        Peerages & Baronetages of the UK were created ;
        meanwhile, the Landed Gentry (untitled, rural or urban) continued to exist
        in all these Kingdoms & in the Principality of Wales ;

Comments are closed.

About Philip Parham

Philip Parham became the UK government’s Envoy to the Commonwealth on 18 June 2018. Previously Philip was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 until 2018.

Philip Parham became the UK government’s Envoy to the Commonwealth on 18 June 2018. Previously Philip was Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2014 until 2018.