Amid shutdowns and anxieties over the spread of the coronavirus in Britain and around the world, Queen Elizabeth addressed the nation and called on the U.K. to rise to the challenge of the pandemic.
In the address, which aired Sunday, the 93-year-old queen acknowledged the daunting challenges brought by the COVID-19 crisis and sought to lift spirits and offer hope to the country in its hour of need.
Aside from her annual Christmas speeches, it was only the fourth time since her reign began in 1952 that she has given such an address.
“I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time,” the queen said. “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 … I hope in the years to come, everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.”
The queen, who has held her title for 68 years, has given similar “rare and historic” addresses in the wake of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, the death of Princess Diana in 1997 and the death of her mother in 2002, James O’Rourke, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, told USA TODAY.
Before becoming queen, Elizabeth and her sister, Anne, gave a broadcast in 1940 – when Elizabeth was 14 – to speak to “children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety” amid the second World War, the queen recalled Sunday.
“Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones,” she said. “But now, as then, we know deep down that it is the right thing to do. While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time, we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavor.”
Queen Elizabeth expressed her gratitude to all those who have helped with coronavirus efforts in myriad ways, be it those on the front lines in healthcare or working other essential jobs, those who have made efforts to boost morale, and those who are self-isolating at home to slow the spread of the virus.
“What you do is appreciated and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times,” she said. “Together we are tackling this disease and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.”
She concluded: “We will succeed and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have still more 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 address was recorded in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, chosen because the location allowed enough space between the monarch and the camera operator, who wore personal protective equipment.
“This cannot come a moment too soon,” O’Rourke said. “The world is seemingly in meltdown, if not complete lockdown. … Britons have not faced such grim circumstances since the darkest days of World War II, with the Blitz and the mass evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. … Now, more than ever, the people of the U.K. must have someone to reply upon, someone whose word they can trust.”
Queen Elizabeth’s 71-year-old son and heir, Charles, opened a vast temporary hospital Friday for coronavirus patients in a London convention center.
He completed the U.K.’s required week of isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 last month and said he’s “on the other side of the illness” but will continue to practice social distancing.
“Now is precisely the right moment for Elizabeth to step forward, speak plainly and reassure Britons and the world that we’re in this together, and together we shall get through this,” O’Rourke said. “Somehow, no matter what the occasion, she always seems to know exactly what to say.”
Contributing: The Associated Press