‘A source of stability in an era of great change’: Legal profession mourns Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)

Bar Council of England & Wales chair, Mark Fenhalls KC, leads tributes to United Kingdom's 'most devoted public servant'


Members of the legal profession have paid tribute to Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s longest serving monarch, who passed away yesterday at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was 96. 

The Queen’s death came as a touchstone moment, closing a reign that spanned 70 years. Reaction from the legal profession echoed tributes by the new UK prime minister, Liz Truss, and the leader of the opposition, Sir Keir Starmer KC, in praising her public service.

 The chair of the Bar Council of England & Wales, Mark Fenhalls KC, said that officers, members and staff “[joined] with colleagues across the legal professions in mourning the loss of our country’s most devoted public servant.

“Throughout a long, loyal and steadfast reign, Queen Elizabeth II embodied the symbolic role of the figure in whose name justice is carried out with great integrity,” he said.  

The president of the Law Society of England & Wales, Stephanie Boyce, commented: “On this sad occasion we share in the grief of the nation at the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. On behalf of the solicitor’s profession, I would also like to offer our condolences to the Royal Family.

“As the holder of a Royal Charter, the Society has been very grateful to the Queen for her role in public life, as a defender of the constitution and source of stability in an era of great change.”

Similar tributes were issued by the Law Societies of Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland, the Bar of Northern Ireland and the New Zealand Bar Association, which described her as ‘a role model internationally’. 

The Lord Chief Justice, issuing guidance, said that traditional legal mourning dress, not seen since 1952, need not be worn, but a two-minute silence would be observed at all sittings today at the start of proceedings. The courts will remain open other than for the day of the Queen’s funeral, which will be a National Day of Mourning, a public holiday.

One change, felt immediately, was that of post-nominals from Queen’s Counsel (QC) to King’s Counsel (KC). Under the Demise of the Crown Act 1901 there is no need for new appointments, as the letters patent change automatically on death. Changes to court nomenclature are similarly immediate.  

Reaction from lawyers on social media was widespread. Mark Philips KC, of South Square, said: “The passing of our Queen brings great sadness. I cannot help but remember the love, admiration and affection shown to her during her Jubilee.”

Tom de la Mare KC, of Blackstone Chambers, tweeted the change of post-nominals was “one of the many reminders the formalities of our job will present of the impact of the passing of someone whose life was dedicated principally to public service.”

Jamie Susskind, of 11 King’s Bench Walk, commented: “Why do I feel so sad tonight? Because she connected us to our past. And she connected us to each other. That doesn’t mean our past (or each other) are perfect. But the desire to hold together, to be held together, is only human.”

James Bremen, of Quinn Emanuel, said: “Her Majesty embodied the ‘keep calm and carry on’ spirit and was a role model we could all aspire to. We are poorer and we all mourn. Our world changed today.”

From the EU, Dr Hans-Hermann Aldenhoff, head of European client relations at Simmons & Simmons, said: “Regardless of where one stands on the concept of monarchy, Her Majesty embodied why we miss our British friends so much in the EU family: dignity, discipline and understatement.”

It was a sentiment felt by many. Fred Banning, of legal operations charity Fifth Day, commented: “It is hard to think of any other figure in British or global public life who would engender this sort of respect and goodwill.”

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