Three other times The Queen held special addresses
TORONTO -- The Queen is set to address the nation in a rare televised broadcast that will likely set a calm and reassuring tone for Britain and the rest of the Commonwealth as the world navigates a growing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement released on Twitter Friday, Buckingham Palace confirmed “Her Majesty The Queen has recorded a special broadcast to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth in relation to the Coronavirus outbreak.”
On Sunday 5th April at 8pm (BST)— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 3, 2020
Her Majesty The Queen will address the UK and the Commonwealth in a televised broadcast.
As well as on television and radio, The Queen’s address will be shown on The @RoyalFamily’s social media channels. pic.twitter.com/EADh7WNU7b
The Queen, who has only made a handful of rare televised addresses like this during her 68-year reign, and whose duty as head of state is to maintain neutrality, is likely choosing this moment in time during an international crisis to speak when the nation is completely united, according to CTV News Royal Commentator Richard Berthelsen.
“She can only speak when the nation is completely united. She speaks for everybody, the collective us,” Berthelsen said during a phone interview he gave to CTVNews.ca from his home in Toronto.
“For her to speak, it suggests the nation is united in either grief, or fear, or anxiety,” he added.
The uniting factor is a viral outbreak of the coronavirus that has so far killed more than 58,000 worldwide, and more than 3,600 people in the U.K. alone.
Berthelsen, who has been extensively covering the Royal Family for more than 30 years, recalls the Queen was criticized for not speaking up during other times of crisis, like Brexit, or during the 1995 Quebec referendum.
But Berthelsen is quick to point out that in those instances, public opinion was heavily divided.
“This (COVID-19 pandemic) is a very serious moment, an international crisis that we haven’t really had since her father was king,” said Berthelsen.
“There is a sense of not knowing how this is going to end, a level of death we’re going to experience. The Queen will look to unite people under a shared citizenship,” he added.
Berthelsen recalled the few times the Queen delivered a special national address and said they came at times when the monarch identified a moment of unity for the U.K. and other Commonwealth nations.
The Queen has spoken directly to the nation to deliver a special televised message on these occasions:
- February, 24, 1991: The Gulf War
- September. 5, 1997: The death of Princess Diana
- April 8, 2002: The death of the Queen Mother
While these public addresses happened during periods of war and deep sadness, Berthelsen remembered other notable moments in history where the Queen spoke directly to the people.
Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Canada in 1957 marked her first official visit to Canada, where she opened Parliament in Ottawa and addressed Canadians for the first time in a public address that was widely watched.
Berthelsen also noted 1959 as a significant year, as it marked another time the Queen spoke to Canadians while she embarked on a cross-country tour of Canada.
Other significant dates Berthelsen noted include Canada Day, 1967, when the Queen marked the country’s Centennial year, and June 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee celebration, when the Queen gave a short address to thank Britons for their loyalty and support during her 60 years on the throne.
As for Sunday night’s special address, which was pre-recorded at Windsor Castle and will be broadcast on television, radio and the Royal Family’s social media on Sunday, April 5 at 8 p.m. (3 p.m. ET), Berthelsen predicts the Queen’s statement will likely expand on messages of condolences for lives lost, as well as an expression of admiration and honour for all essential workers responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.