AS I WRITE, the bells are tolling across Westminster and throughout much of the country. The queen has died. And like so many of you, I suspect, I feel a real sense of sadness.

I have in front of me the last photo ever taken of her. It is from earlier this week as she welcomed Liz Truss to Balmoral.

She is standing by an open fire, with the familiar no-nonsense hair do, and she's wearing a comfortable kilt.

But a closer examination of the familiar figure reveals that she is struggling to lift her head. Her right hand is badly bruised. And she is leaning heavily on a stick.

I suspect she must have been feeling pretty awful. But she is wearing make up and smiling a warm welcome.

How brave that was, and how dutiful. I find myself looking at the picture and thinking of her with affection and respect.

For many of us, the moment of her passing will remind us of those we have loved and lost.

All the mothers and grandmothers we have known and admired for their quiet, anonymous courage.

Few of us knew the queen personally but we all felt somehow that we did. And as the tributes pour in there are recurring themes.

She was a woman of great religious faith who did not fear death. She was capable of many quiet acts of sensitivity and compassion away from the public eye.

She could be very funny with a dry wit and mischievous talent for mimicry.

And she didn't like folk who were pompous or overly grand despite, I suspect, being surrounded by them.

She loved Scotland the most of any country and was at her happiest driving round in the lashing rain of Balmoral gently torturing urban Westminster politicians who arrived with city clothes and starched personalities.

And while no one imagined she was a political radical, those who talked to her privately report she had moved with the times whether on climate change, women's equality, LGBT rights and a recent decision to stop wearing fur.

And though she perhaps strayed overly into the political with comments about Scottish independence, she seems to have enjoyed warm relations with SNP first ministers who appear to have been as charmed by her as the most ardent monarchist.

She loved, apparently, being called Elizabeth, Queen of Scots, perhaps recognising that taking the title of Elizabeth II all those decades ago was not the most sensitive decision.

She is amongst the last of the wartime generation. It gave her a special bond with politicians who'd served – Heath and Healey, Callaghan and Jenkins.

They were a generation who saw the devastation war caused in our continent and were committed to building a new, more united Europe.

My mum, who died recently, was the queen's age and a passionate supporter of the EU because she had known the horror of war and celebrated the peace our generation perhaps appreciate too little.

One of the most moving tributes to the queen has come today from the French president.

We will miss her and will together celebrate her life over the coming weeks. May she rest in peace.