Lunch with Brenda, Baroness Hale of Richmond, 21 November, 2023

Twenty members of the Society and guests met Baroness Hale of Richmond at the Cercle Münster for Lunch on Tuesday 21 November. Baroness Hale, who served as the first female President of the UK Supreme Court from 2017 until her retirement in 2020, is an alumna of Girton College, Cambridge and is currently the Visitor to Girton College. In September 2019 she received considerable public attention when she delivered the unanimous ruling of all eleven judges of the Supreme Court which found that the prorogation of Parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the Brexit process was unlawful, terminating the suspension of Parliament. When she delivered the ruling, she wore a striking spider brooch which led the media to call her “Spider Woman” – and which became the title of her remarkable and highly recommended autobiography shortly thereafter. For our lunch she wore another of her many beautiful insect brooches.

Baroness Hale was invited by the British-Luxembourg Society to deliver the 2023 Sir Winston Churchill Memorial Lecture on Monday 20 November on the subject of Judicial Independence and its Enemies before an audience of some 250 people at St George’s School. She gave sensitively and with humour a powerful and very well received speech, highlighting a number of worrying occasions in recent years when attacks were made on judicial decisions by some members of the executive and parts of the media. Under-resourcing the judicial system and the growing backlog of cases in the courts also undermine the rule of law. She highlighted the essential importance of the independence of the judiciary in successful democratic societies, and the necessity for vigilance in defending it.

The Society was able to take advantage of Baroness Hale’s presence in Luxembourg to invite her for lunch before she returned to the UK. In the elegant surroundings of the Cercle Münster we enjoyed a relaxed and convivial meal. We explained to her the various activities of the Society, and she gave us a short entertaining address recalling her own period many years ago as an undergraduate at Girton, and how the experience had moulded her and transformed her career. Her role as Visitor to Girton – she suceeded the Queen Mother in that role – enables her to maintain close links with Cambridge and to see the enormous progress that has been made in increasing diversity and equality in the University. The decisions from the early 1970s onwards by all but two of the colleges to admit both men and women were a major step in achieving this.

This event was a delightful way to round off Baroness Hale’s visit to Luxembourg, and will be remembered for a long time by those members of the Society who attended. Thanks are due to Louise Benjamin, a fellow Girtonian, for organising Baroness Hale’s visit to Luxembourg for the Sir Winston Churchill Memorial Lecture and for arranging for her to meet us for lunch. Thanks are also due to Sir Nicholas and Sally Forwood, members of the Society with whom Baroness Hale stayed during her visit.

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