Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, in a rare televised address to the nation, invoked a war-time spirit of self-discipline and resolve to fight the coronavirus pandemic which has killed nearly 5,000 in the country and about 70,000 people globally, assuring Britons that “better days will return”.
The 93-year-old British monarch and Head of the 54-member Commonwealth of nations which includes India, acknowledged the grief, pain and financial difficulties being faced the world over during this “time of disruption” and expressed the hope that the whole world was uniting in a “common endeavour”.
“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” she said on Sunday, in a four-minute speech recorded earlier this week at Windsor Castle. “And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country,” she said.
The Queen, who has been based at Windsor Castle with her 98-year-old husband Prince Philip since last month, called on the British public to draw on their inherent traits as she exhorted them to carry on following the official government guidance to stay at home to protect the vulnerable and curb the rapid spread of the deadly virus.
“I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time. A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all,” the monarch said, as she went on to thank key workers, including carers and those on the frontline of the COVID-19 fightback at the National Health Service (NHS) and acknowledged the pain felt by many families who have lost their loved ones in the pandemic.
The message was recorded in the White Drawing Room at her sprawling castle in Berkshire, south-east England by a single BBC cameraperson dressed in a full-body protective suit as other technicians remained at a considerable distance in a separate room to comply with medical advice.
“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,” she said.
The Queen concluded her address by again calling for unity saying, “we will succeed”. Her “deeply personal” words were said to be chosen to echo those of her father, King George VI, during World War II, aimed at bringing the country together in a time of crisis. Apart from her annual Christmas message, it is rare for the British monarch to make a special address.
The previous times she addressed the nation in a similar way was at the time of the Gulf war in 1991, on the eve of the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997, on the death of the Queen Mother in 2002, and on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Downing Street said Sunday’s message was intended as a means to “lift the nations spirits” amidst the strict lockdown rules designed to slow the spread of coronavirus and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who remains in self-isolation as he recovers from mild symptoms of COVID-19, has been conducting his weekly audiences with the Queen over the telephone. “The Prime Minister and Her Majesty the Queen have been speaking regularly and No. 10 and Buckingham Palace have been speaking throughout about Her Majesty the Queens address,” a Downing Street official said.
“The Queen is the best judge of when to talk to the country and we absolutely agree that now is the right time. We have asked the country to make huge sacrifices and life is very difficult at the moment for a great number of people. Hearing from Her Majesty at this time is an important way of helping to lift the nations spirits,” the official said.
The Queen’s address came days after her son and heir, Prince Charles, who came out of self-isolation a week ago having tested positive for COVID-19, offered his own tributes to the NHS as he inaugurated a new makeshift hospital in London via video conference from his home at Birkhall in Scotland.
On Sunday, as many as 621 people in the UK died of coronavirus, taking the death toll to 4,934, the Department of Health said after England recorded 555 more deaths. More than 1.2 million cases including over 69,000 deaths have been reported in 190 countries and territories around the world since the coronavirus first emerged in China in December last year.