The Queen has praised Britain’s “national spirit” in facing the challenge of coronavirus as she evoked wartime memories to reassure those “feeling a painful sense of separation from their loved ones” to take comfort in the fact: “We will meet again.”
In only the fifth special televised broadcast, other than Christmas messages, of her long reign, she said: “While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal.”
“We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us,” she said.
And she drew on the memories of her first broadcast to the nation some 80 years ago, when she and her sister Margaret made a radio broadcast for Children’s Hour.
Speaking with a picture from that first recording visible behind her, she said: “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.”
She added: “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 government hopes that an intervention from the Queen, planned in close consultation with Downing Street, will help to shore up public commitment to the self-isolation guidelines amid fears that warmer weather could lead some to waver.
There had been speculation the Queen might broadcast on Easter Sunday. But it is understood that both Buckingham Palace and Downing Street ultimately agreed on Sunday night as the best moment to maximise the impact of her speech. A senior No 10 official said Buckingham Palace and the prime minister, Boris Johnson, “have been speaking throughout” about the timing.
“The Queen is the best judge of when to talk to the country and we absolutely agree that now is the right time,” the official said. “We have asked the country to make huge sacrifices and life is very difficult at the moment for a great many people. Hearing from Her Majesty the Queen at this time is an important way of helping to lift the nation’s spirits.”
Elizabeth, 94 this month and said to remain in good health, recorded her message at Windsor Castle, where she and the Duke of Edinburgh, 98, are staying for the foreseeable future during the pandemic.
The broadcast was filmed in extraordinary circumstances, with only one cameraman, wearing personal protective equipment, allowed into the White Drawing Room with the elderly monarch, to mitigate the risks to both to her and others.
In a rare and deeply personal address to the nation and Commonwealth, she acknowledged the “pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones”.
She praised NHS frontline workers, care workers and those carrying out essential roles, “who selflessly continue their day-to-day duties outside the home in support of all of us”. She told them: “Every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.”
She also thanked those who were staying at home, “thereby helping to protect the vulnerable”.
In a rallying call, she added: “Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.”
Her hope, she said, was that those in years to come would look back and say that this generation of Britons “were as strong as any”. She added: “The pride in who we are is not part of our past, it defines our present and our future.”
It was, she said, an increasingly challenging time of disruption: “a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all”.
Her message incorporated footage of NHS frontline staff, workers making deliveries, the armed forces constructing the NHS Nightingale London field hospital and video of the #clapforourcarers moments around the country, along with pictures of rainbows drawn by children.
“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.” she said.
Apart from her Christmas message, it is rare for the monarch to make a special televised address. She has previously done so at the time of the Gulf war in 1991, on the eve of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, on the death of the Queen Mother in 2002, and on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012.