This blog post was published under the 2015 to 2024 Conservative government

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Philip Parham

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

Part of UK in UAE

22nd May 2018 London, UK

Celebrating the Royal Wedding in the UAE (speech)


Your Excellency Dr Ahmad bin Abdulla Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education.

Your Excellency Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, Group Chairman and CEO of DP World.

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen.


Welcome – with thanks to DP World – to this iconic venue, which bears the name of Her Majesty The Queen, and which she herself named and launched almost 50 years ago.

And welcome to this happy celebration of the wedding of Her Majesty’s grandson Prince Harry to Meghan Markle.

Amidst the world’s crises, tribulations, challenges and suffering – so often caused by selfishness and sectarianism and separatism – today we can celebrate an example of inclusive love. Humanity could do with a lot more of that, ladies and gentlemen.

This wedding – this marriage – is not only inclusive for all the obvious reasons about which there has been so much commentary. It is inclusive because Prince Harry and his bride so obviously intend their love to reach out and lift up those who are bowed down, those who are broken in body and in mind, those who need to be liberated and empowered.

Long before they met each other, they were both active humanitarians:

  • Meghan as a counsellor for the charity One Young World, focusing on women’s empowerment and modern slavery; and as a global ambassador for World Vision Canada.
  • And Prince Harry with his Sentebale charity supporting young people affected by HIV in Lesotho and Botswana; his creation of the Invictus Games; and his work with his brother Prince William to promote the understanding and treatment of mental health.

This couple is set to be an inspiration and a power house of love in action for human good.

And Brits  – and their 2.4 billion Commonwealth cousins spread across 53 countries on every continent – can be rightly proud of this. Rightly proud that the family of the Head of their Commonwealth, which for many is also the family of their Sovereign, is not just ceremonial. Far, far from it, ladies and gentlemen. Day after day, it is setting practical examples of service – the service of which The Queen spoke when she addressed the Commonwealth on her 21st birthday 71 years ago:

“I declare before you all” she said, “that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”

And 30 years later, on her Silver Jubilee, she addressed the Commonwealth again, with these words: “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.”

That ambitious impulse to serve is clearly as strong as ever in the new generation of our Royal family. And it is a big part of today’s celebration.

As most of you will already have seen, the marriage service was a wonderful blend of generations, of old and new, of traditional and more modern – the stirring music of Hubert Parry, the gentle prayer of Lord of All Hopefulness, the striding verses of Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, alongside the Gospel hymns Stand By Me and This Little Light of Mine.

In this blend, there is an analogy for the relationship between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom – rooted firmly in history, but dynamic, modern and forward-looking:

Two centuries since representatives of the British government first entered into treaties with the Rulers on this stretch of the Gulf, over 60 years since Sheikh Zayed first visited the UK, and nearly 40 years since The Queen first visited the UAE, there are:

  • over 100,000 Brits living and working here;
  • 1.5 million Brits visiting annually;
  • 365,000 visits from the UK to the UAE every year;
  • 440 direct flights between the UK and UAE each week;
  • our Defence Cooperation Accord, with all the collaboration and commitment which that entails;
  • bilateral trade growing at around 12% a year;
  • strong investment flows in both directions, including DP World’s huge investment in the London Gateway, and with the UK being the UAE’s largest source of foreign direct investment in the UAE; and
  • more British universities represented here than universities from any other country.

In that context, I’m delighted to introduce to you this evening our new Consul-General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, Andrew Jackson, who will say a few words to you in a moment. He and his wife Paola and their two young children have just arrived. I know Andrew will tell you how excited they are to be here. Having worked on three continents, at the UN, in five UK government departments, and on science and innovation, he comes with broad and cutting edge experience to match this vibrant hub which will soon host Expo 2020.

I much regret that I will not still be here for Expo. It shows all the promise of being a fantastic festival of human cultures, achievements and potential. And it will be a great platform on which to show that Britain is indeed open, diverse, tolerant, dynamic, outward facing, and ready for change and challenge and opportunity.

And that is also the Britain which we’ve seen in the wedding at Windsor today, and which we will see – no doubt – in the marriage of Prince Harry and his bride, Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, over the years to come.

Much has been made of the fact that this bride and groom bring together very different backgrounds and experiences, and of course they do – wonderfully so. But, stepping back to get a different and longer perspective, Prince Harry is in fact his wife’s 17th cousin, she being a descendant of King Edward III. Which underlines the point with which I started – the common humanity which should inspire the inclusive love which this world so badly needs.

So let us rejoice in today’s celebration of that love. In the words of the refrain of This Little Light of Mine, which echoed around St George’s Chapel earlier today, “Let it shine!” Let it shine, ladies and gentlemen – the inspiration, the joy, the love – let it shine!

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.