Correspondent in London,
The Queen has the rare verb. In 68 years of reign, his exceptional addresses to the nation can be counted on the fingers of one hand. By this yardstick, his intervention on Sunday evening could not fail to convince the British of the seriousness of the moment. It was through a televised message that Elizabeth II, in a green dress in the colors of hope, encouraged her people and those of the Commonwealth to rise to the occasion. “challenge” launched by the coronavirus epidemic. Reassuring his people while appealing to his will, his unity.
Across London, under the sign of the virus
With an allusion to previous generations facing the ordeal of war, the Queen said she hoped “That in the years to come, everyone can be proud of the way in which we have taken up this challenge”. In this speech which his services qualified as “Deeply personal”, the sovereign added: “And those who will succeed us will say that the British of this generation were as strong as the others (…) and that the qualities of self-discipline, benevolent determination and camaraderie always characterize this country”.
Elizabeth II wanted to be voluntary and optimistic. “Together we are fighting against this disease and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolved, we will overcome it” she said. She stressed that this challenge was different from those that the country had already faced. “This time, we join all the nations of the world in a common effort, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed, and that success will belong to each of us. ”
The sovereign appealed to the spirit of the Second World War, that of the Blitz, evoking personal memories. “It reminds me of the very first show I did, in 1940, helped by my sister. We children have spoken here to Windsor to children who have been evacuated from their homes for safety“, she said, adding: “Today, once again, many people feel a painful feeling of separation from their loved ones”. She also paid a heartfelt tribute to NHS caregivers and to all those who continue to work for the population. And promised that “Better days will return”.
A historic intervention
Broadcast on Sunday at 8:00 p.m., the Queen’s speech was recorded at Windsor Castle, west London, where the Queen has been living since March 19 with her husband, Prince Philip. When her son Charles, now healed, was diagnosed positive for the virus, it was feared that the 93-year-old sovereign would also be infected. But Buckingham says she is in good health. And that the couple follows the instructions of the government while remaining confined.
If Elisabeth II addresses every year on the occasion of Christmas greetings to the British, it is only her fourth exceptional intervention since the beginning of her reign in 1952. The three previous speeches by the Queen concerned times of crisis or mourning: in 1991 during the first Gulf War, in 1997 on the eve of Princess Diana’s funeral, and in 2002 after the death of her mother. In 2012, less solemnly, she also expressed thanks on television for the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
The Queen’s encouragement comes at a time when the government is trying to keep the British mobilized in the face of the epidemic. This has progressed rapidly in recent days, with a toll which is now approaching 5,000 dead. The Ministry of Health announced Sunday 621 additional deaths in 24 hours. At the same time, the authorities are worried about a loosening of discipline, especially in these days of good weather which encourages strolling outside. The government thus threatened Sunday to tighten the confinement of the population if it was taken lightly. Health Minister Matt Hancock recalled that “Sunbathing is against the rules”. And warned that the executive would not hesitate to ban outdoor exercise if a “Small minority” continued to ignore these directives. Such a move would have the backing of the Labor Party, said new opposition leader Keir Starmer, who was elected on Saturday.
Containment was decided on March 23 for three weeks. Britons are only allowed out of their homes for very limited reasons: shopping, getting medical treatment, exercising once a day, or going to work if absolutely necessary. But there is no special travel certificate to fill out as in France and very few police checks. The government preferred to bet on this “Self-discipline” exalted by the Queen.