As of April 4, 2020, Queen Elizabeth had only delivered three speeches in response to current events during her entire 68-year reign: one, about the Gulf War. The second, after the death of Princess Diana. And third, after the passing of the Queen Mother. Today, she delivered her fourth—a calm, hopeful oration about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Queen spoke from Windsor Castle, filmed by a single cameraman wearing protective gear. The message was broadcast on the BBC, but also shared widely on the royal family’s social media accounts, extending its reach far beyond the United Kingdom. She may have addressed it to her countrymen, but it was the world that was watching.
She then recognized the magnitude of this moment in history. “I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who came after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. The attributes of self-discipline, of quiet-good humored resolve, and of fellow-feeling still characterize this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.” The line was reminiscent of another famous British oration, from Winston Churchill—“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
Indeed, the Queen soon evoked a specific parallel to World War II.
The broadcast became personal, showing a picture of the Queen and her sister Margaret in 1940 as they gave a radio address to children who, due to The Blitz, had been evacuated from their homes and sent away from their families. “Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know deep down that it is the right thing to do.”
Her tone was steady and reassuring, yet the ending of the speech packed an emotional punch. “While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavor. Using the great advances and science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed—and that success will belong to each and every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return. We will be with our friends again, we will be with our families again, we will meet again.”
All in all, the speech ran for just under four and a half minutes. Yet, as the United Kingdom—and nations all around the world—are in the midst of brutal battle against an invisible force, it was a welcome morale booster from a benevolent figure with no other agenda than caring for her country.