Queen Elizabeth II saw a lot during her record breaking 70-year reign. In her 96 years, Britain’s longest serving and longest living monarch oversaw great change, both high points and low points, was served by 15 British prime ministers and was head of state for 15 countries before she died.
One of the many ways which the Queen will be remembered is by her speeches. Here we’ll take a look at five of her most memorable addresses.
Her 21st birthday speech
Perhaps one of Elizabeth Mary Alexandra Windsor’s most famous speeches was this one delivered five years before she became queen. Princess Elizabeth addressed the Commonwealth of Nations from Cape Town, South Africa on 21st April 1947, her 21st birthday. In it she pledged to serve the people of the Commonwealth for her whole life “whether it be long or short”. She specifically referred to her generation who had grown up through the Second World War and their responsibility for “the long years of peace that we all hope stretch ahead”.
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
The Most Gracious Speech 1957
Her Majesty’s most familiar address of the year was of course the Royal Christmas Message, but the 1957 speech was especially notable for being the first to be televised. Speaking from Sandringham House, the Queen gave an appropriate message for the milestone: to stick to timeless values such as religion, morality, self restraint and honesty, even in times of change. Elizabeth also addressed her own role in people’s eyes, as well as hoping that the televised broadcast would make her “more personal and direct”.
“It’s inevitable that I may seem a rather remote figure to many of you, a successor to the kings and queens of history, someone whose face may be familiar in newspapers and films, but who never really touches your personal life.”
Fast forward 40 years and our next speech is memorable in a very different way. With the nation gripped in sadness and shock at the death of Lady Diana Spencer, and after a notable week’s silence, the Queen addressed the nation and paid tribute to the late Princess of Wales.
“First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.”
Covid-19 “We’ll meet again”
In April 2020, the Queen’s speech at the beginning of the pandemic and first lockdown called on people to follow the public health guidance and stay at home. It was watched by over 24 million people and was only her fifth special address since the beginning of her reign. She also took the opportunity to pay tribute to key workers.
“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.”
COP 26 speech
The Queen’s last public address was fittingly on the future of the planet. Despite being unable to attend the Glasgow COP 26 climate summit in person, the Queen delivered a recorded message urging world leaders to “answer the call of future generations”. She also made reference to her late husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who took a keen interest in climate change. She concluded by wishing everyone “good fortune in this significant endeavour”.
“None of us underestimates the challenges ahead: but history has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope. Working side by side, we have the ability to solve the most insurmountable problems and to triumph over the greatest of adversities.”