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A statement from Dr Nick Fox

A statement from one of British Falconers’ Club Vice Presidents, Dr Nick Fox.

In memory of the queen and all she has done for the world we would like to take this opportunity to share the tribute paid to HRH by Dr Nick Fox at Vowley.

Source: British Falconers’ Club

Fellow Falconers, Ladies and Gentlemen

We are taking time out from our sporting activities today to celebrate the life of a remarkable lady, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. Probably for most of you, you have known no other Monarch. Seventy years on the throne is a long time.

I was born a Georgian, but nobody in our village had a TV in those days and I have no memories of her Coronation. The War was just over and we still had food rationing and hand-me-down clothes. But we had a new young Queen and the whole world was changing. We soon had the Swinging Sixties, and another five decades followed. The Cold War. Men on the moon. Computers. The Internet. Climate change.

Regardless of whether you are a Monarchist or a Republican, this lady deserves our greatest respect. I don’t think any one of us could have done such a good job as she did.

And now she is gone.

There are two milestones in life, on the path to becoming an adult. One is when you first have children of your own, and one is when you lose your parents. Suddenly you have to be the one who is responsible.

The Queen was like a Mother to us, unobtrusive but always there. A reassuring support in times of trouble. She had her own share of family difficulties, but throughout her own personal trials, she maintained a dignity and steadfastness as Monarch to her Country and the Commonwealth. She always had the long view and the welfare of her people and country at heart. She did not have to face the transience of an electoral term, nor did she have any real power. But she was always there, and on our side.

Politicians with their weaselly avoidance of answering the difficult questions, met their match with our Queen. She was not afraid to say to them what needed saying. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Prime Ministers had to face their weekly audiences with her, like naughty schoolboys outside the Head Master’s office! I am sure that there were many times when the politicians were grateful that their private conversations were not recorded in Hansard!

Literally 48 hours before she died, and barely able to stand, the Queen was doing her duty, seeing out Boris Johnson and welcoming the new Prime Minister, Elizabeth Truss. She continued her duties for 36 years after her supposed retirement age.

But when not on royal duties she was a Countrywoman, keen on her horses, dogs and the land itself. I attended the All the Queen’s Horses event at Windsor in 2012, celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. To see all those horses from different disciplines going through their paces, with a finale of the Kings Troops pulling the gun carriages, was enough to bring tears to the eyes.

Other countries can keep their tin pot Presidents who come and go and live only for their next election. We have enduring roots to our past and to our countryside. We take our sports seriously, but also with a twinkle and a smile. We know only too well those familiar old imposters – Triumph and Disaster – and we treat them both the same. You will see them this afternoon, in the Open Hunt Race.

The Queen was not a Falconer, and I never knew her personally. But she and her family enjoyed all country sports and she was thrilled when His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, now President of the United Arab Emirates, presented her with a white gyrfalcon for her Jubilee. Bred at Sheikh Mohammed’s stud in UK, the Queen named him ‘Diamond’ and he was returned to us, together with other royal falcons, for breeding. Diamond too is now a part of her history and I have brought him here today for you to see.

Our new Monarch, King Charles the Third, is also a countryman, keen on country sports and farming, as well as the wider issues of conservation, environment and heritage. I have had various dealings with him, on falconry and cultural issues. When we were preparing the submission to UNESCO fifteen years ago, the question naturally came up: why can’t Britain be included? After all, falconry has been practised in UK for many years. Twenty four other countries are inscribed. Why not us?

On our hawking grounds we have a statue of a falconer dated 670 AD, before England was even established as a country. Falconry is deeply embedded in our culture.

I wrote to the Minister for Culture, Jeremy Hunt MP, to enquire why UK has not signed UNESCO’s ICH Convention. He wriggled out of it by claiming that one cannot define ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’. But UNESCO had already done that for us. What happened was, while Britain was busy promoting a ‘multi-cultural’ society, this was done at the expense of our own indigenous culture. It’s our habit in Britain to under-state ourselves. One should not blow one’s own trumpet. So while politicians celebrated other ethnic groups and cultures, our own received little recognition. Instead it became a kicking boy for politicians scoring points against one another.

The Hunting Act was never about hunting itself; it was about game playing in Westminster and the Queen was given no option but to give it Royal Assent. Since that Act was passed in 2005, hunting has continued as before. It has been the biggest and longest civil disobedience in the entire Queen’s reign.

One thing that struck me about UNESCO was that, while History is about the past, Heritage is about the future. It is living culture that we pass on to the next generation, like a baton. Nor is it something fossilised and static, but rather it must continue to evolve.

The racing you see here at Vowley is not Falconry as such. Falconry is a hunting sport. But it engages with most of the cultural skills needed to be a good Falconer, and it is a way to engage the younger generation. At some of the race meetings here at Vowley, I have been the only one with white hair. This is as it should be. Let’s welcome the young. Fresh blood, new ideas. The best way to preserve the past is to embrace change.

This little celebration today, to remember the Queen, is not about religion, or race, or cultures. More than 80 countries practise falconry. It transcends the religions, races and cultures. Actually, it is older than any of the received religions. Our ancestors were hawking long before Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. It requires huge personal daily commitment on behalf of its practitioners. It is a form of religion of its own. So we are in the process of getting falconry recognised as a ‘Protected Belief’. This is a legal category, giving adherents certain rights in practising their belief. Google it when you get home.

Falconry is under threat as never before. Most threats are peripheral. Death by a thousand cuts. We lose quarry licences. Mountain Hares become protected. Pest licences are restricted. Often the changes are not aimed at us at all; we are just collateral damage because we are so small. The Welsh government have come out against shooting as a leisure activity and Labour plan to do the same when next in government. This would most easily be implemented by banning game rearing, as has happened in some western European countries.

Who would have thought that you would need a licence to catch a crow or a pigeon, as if they were endangered species? As Britain becomes more and more urbanised and as social media can be used to sway and rally public opinion, without any first hand knowledge, country voices get drowned out.

For falconry to continue in any recognisable form, we must be cohesive and support one another. This means supporting our representatives on the Hawk Board and clubs who are at the battle front, dealing with government departments and the media. Politics, sadly, is not evidence-led. It simply follows perceived public opinions which means that, while some minorities received headline status, others like ours, are trodden on.

Often we are our own worst enemies, airing our trivial grievances between each other on the social media, rather than creating a unifying influence. Before you press ‘Post’ on your Instagram or forum, ask yourself: Am I making a positive contribution, or am I just being negative, a disparaging doom and gloom merchant?

Tomorrow is the Queen’s funeral. It is the end of an era, and the beginning of a new one. I would like to say thankyou to the Queen for all the years of steadfast service she has given to us. She has set an example for us all to follow.

God Save the Queen!

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