'We will overcome it,' a resolute Queen says in a televised message amid the coronavirus pandemic
Queen Elizabeth has delivered a message of hope, saying if we “remain united and resolute” in the face of the coronavirus outbreak “we will overcome it”.
She warned people in lockdown, now for almost two weeks, and with thousands dead after contracting Covid-19, that they “may have more still to endure”.
But she echoed the words of Forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynne’s Second World War anthem, when she said “we will meet again”.
In a rare televised address to the country and Commonwealth, the Queen sounded a positive note after what has been an unsettling period, saying: “We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.”
Speaking from Windsor Castle, the Queen personally thanked frontline NHS staff, care workers and others for “selflessly” carrying out their essential roles which had brought “us closer to a return to more normal times”.
The pre-recorded message was filmed before the sunny weekend, which tempted a small minority outside into public spaces – but many remained indoors.
The Queen said: “I also want to thank those of you who are staying at home, thereby helping to protect the vulnerable and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones.
“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.”
Dame Vera helped rally the nation during wartime with her songs, especially We’ll Meet Again which became a significant tune for servicemen fighting abroad and those at home separated from loved ones.
The Queen, who is from the wartime generation, said: “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.”
The veteran singer responded to the outbreak by releasing a video message in March, calling on the nation to pull together and overcome Covid-19.
Turning to her own experiences, the Queen sympathised with those feeling a “painful sense of separation from their loved ones” and described how during the Blitz in 1940 she gave her first radio broadcast to evacuated children.
The then 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth had been sent for safety to Windsor Castle with her sister Princess Margaret, and she called on evacuated youngsters to have courage – telling them she and Margaret knew what it was like to be separated from those they loved.
Acknowledging the changing religious landscape as Christians celebrated Palm Sunday, the Queen said: “And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.”
She added: “It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety.
“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.”
The broadcast featured footage of NHS frontline staff, workers making deliveries and military personnel helping to construct the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCel centre in east London.
People taking part in the Clap for Carers tribute were also shown, along with rainbow pictures drawn by children – in honour of the carers – and a black and white image of the Queen’s first radio broadcast.
The Queen said: “The moments when the United Kingdom has come together to applaud its care and essential workers will be remembered as an expression of our national spirit; and its symbol will be the rainbows drawn by children.”
The head of state also will acknowledged the “grief” some have experienced, the “financial difficulties” many face and the “enormous changes” the country is enduring.
With hundreds of thousands answering the call for NHS volunteers and others supporting vulnerable people in their communities, the monarch said she hopes in the future everyone will be able to feel “pride” in how they rose to the situation.
The Queen’s televised address to the nation amid the coronavirus pandemic is only the fourth of her 68-year-reign during times of national crisis and grief.
While she broadcasts a recorded message each year on Christmas Day, special addresses from the monarch in troubled periods are rare.
There have been three previous speeches broadcast – after the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, ahead of Diana, Princess of Wales’s funeral in 1997 and about the First Gulf War in 1991.
Amid celebratory times, the Queen made a televised address to mark her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
Her latest speech reflects that the nation “may have more still to endure”, but also shows optimism with the words “we will overcome it”.
– The Queen Mother’s death
Eighteen years ago on the eve of her mother’s funeral, the Queen thanked the country for their support and the “love and honour” shown to the Queen Mother.
Dressed in black, the Queen added: “I count myself fortunate that my mother was blessed with a long and happy life.
“She had an infectious zest for living, and this remained with her until the very end.”
– Diana, Princess of Wales’s death
The Queen also spoke to the nation in 1997 on the eve of the funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales.
Diana’s sudden death in a Paris car crash triggered one of the monarchy’s worst crises in modern history.
When the Queen initially remained at Balmoral to comfort her grandsons Princes William and Harry, the newspaper headlines screamed: “Show us you care” and “Where is our Queen? and “Where is her flag?”.
A sea of flowers was left at the gates of Diana’s London home, Kensington Palace, by shocked members of the public, but the flag pole at Buckingham Palace remained bare, as was the protocol, because the Queen was away in Scotland.
A rare palace statement was released telling of the royal family’s hurt at suggestions they were untouched by the tragedy.
The Queen had been due to pre-record her message, but in an unprecedented move for a royal broadcast of this kind, it was decided she should deliver it live.
Royal author Robert Lacey wrote of how it was a high-risk strategy, but an aide told him: “It was a psychological thing. (The Queen) goes flat when she know’s it being recorded. When she knows it’s real, she rises to the challenge.”
Speaking from Buckingham Palace and against a backdrop of a view of the crowds of mourners outside, the Queen, dressed in black, said she was speaking from her heart as both the nation’s Queen and as a grandmother.
She paid tribute to Diana as “an exceptional and gifted human being”, adding: “In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.”
– The Gulf War
In February 1991, the Queen recorded a brief televised address to the nation during the Gulf War.
It came as the allied land offensive began against Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait.
The Queen called on people to unite and pray that the Armed Forces’ success would be as “swift as it is certain”, and that it would be “achieved with as small a cost in human life and suffering as possible”.
She expressed her hopes for a “just and lasting peace”.
– Experienced broadcaster
The Queen is highly experienced at public speaking and records her Christmas message in just one take, reading her script from a monitor.
But her message during the coronavirus pandemic had the added technical challenge of taking place while the UK is in lockdown.
The Queen, 93, has left London and is staying with the 98-year-old Duke of Edinburgh with a reduced household at Windsor Castle for their safety.
– Diamond Jubilee address
The monarch also made a televised address when she thanked the nation for the festivities commemorating her Diamond Jubilee, describing it as “a humbling experience”.
As the special bank holiday came to a close in June 2012, the monarch said in the two-minute pre-recorded televised message that she was deeply touched, adding: “I hope that memories of all this year’s happy events will brighten our lives for many years to come.”
– Cold War preparations
In 1983, Whitehall officials drew up a script for the Queen to read during the Cold War if Britain faced annihilation at the hands of a nuclear-armed Soviet Union.
Records released under the 30-year-old rule showed the monarch, in the event of World War Three, would have urged her “brave country” to stand firm as it faced up to the “madness of war”, but the speech was never recorded.