It is much-cited that the Queen “never complains and never explains” in her relationship with the public and the press. This informal royal stance means the monarch remains neutral on matters of political policy and often on issues on the news agenda.
Although the Queen gives a Christmas address once a year, broadcast into homes up and down the country, she does not use it as a soapbox; and more often chooses to highlight good causes or charity that her family and local communities have been engaged with in the last 12 months.
In 2020, it was announced that the Queen would be giving a rare broadcast on the coronavirus pandemic. Her Majesty rarely addresses the nation directly in this way – with just a handful of previous examples.
Since that speech, there have been several examples of the royals talking about vaccination and uptake of the coronavirus jab – the Palace publicly confirmed both HRH and Prince Philip had received their vaccination in January.
In February, the Queen told health leaders she wanted people to “think about other[s] rather than themselves,” when deciding whether to have it.
But these rallying moments for the Queen to speak on such matters are rare – in the case of televised speeches, there were only four prior to her April 2020 Covid-19 speech.
These were the Diamond Jubilee (2012), the Queen Mother’s death (2002), the death of Diana (1997) and the First Gulf War (1991).
1. Coronavirus, 2020
In April 2020, a month into lockdown, the Queen spoke to the nation about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the UK. She started by saying: “I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time,” and went on to thank NHS and frontline workers.
“I am sure the nation will join me in assuring you that what you do is appreciated and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.
“I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.
“That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country.”
She also referenced her first ever broadcast, with her sister Margaret, in 1940, during the Blitz when she spoke directly to fellow children impacted by the war.
She ended by referencing Vera Lynn’s famous song lyrics, saying: “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
2. Diamond Jubilee message, 2012
In June 2012, for her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen gave a speech to celebrate the milestone moment, which was broadcast across the UK and around the commonwealth.
In front of a portrait of the newly engaged William and Kate, the Queen said she was “deeply touched” to see so many families, friends and neighbours joining in the celebrations and that it was a “humbling experience”.
She continued the two-minute segment by saying that she and Prince Philip hoped memories of the happy events that took place across the UK to mark the occasion would “brighten lives for many years to come”.
3. Queen Mother’s death, 2002
In April 2002, the Queen addressed the nation on the eve of her mother’s funeral, a week after her death at the age of 101. Like the speech for Princess Diana’s funeral, she was keen to thank well-wishers who had sent tributes, messages and flowers following the death.
“The extent of the tribute that huge numbers of you have paid my mother in the last few days has been overwhelming, I have drawn great comfort from so many individual acts of kindness and respect,” she said.
She also spoke about meeting other people who have dealt with loss over the years. “I count myself fortunate my mother was blessed with a long and happy life,” she said. “She had an infectious zest for living.” The Queen also referenced her mother’s Chrsitian faith.
4. Princess of Wales death, 1997
Wearing black, and appearing against a backdrop of the Mall outside Buckingham Palace in September 1997, the Queen said: “Since last Sunday’s dreadful news…we have all been trying in our different ways to cope, it is not easy to.”
She referenced a concern “for those who remain” and said that during the week the family had rallied around Princes William and Harry at Balmoral to try and comfort them.
One of her most noted lines was: “What I say to you now as a Queen and a grandmother, I say from my heart.” She also paid tribute to Diana personally, saying she was “an exceptional human being [who] never lost her capacity to smile and laugh.”
“I admired and respected her for her energy and commitment to others and for her devotion to her two boys.” she said.
5. First Gulf War, 1991
On 24 February 1991, the Queen made a statement as the land war began in Iraq. She spoke of Britain’s pride in the armed forces but said she hoped that any success would be “swift” and she would be praying for “as small a cost in human life and suffering as possible”.
She warned that the task would be hard and that there would be “dark days ahead”, and that war could “no longer be confined to the battlefield.”
The Queen’s father, King George VI, addressed the nation on the wireless on 3 September 1939 at the start of World War Two.
As well as giving televised addresses there have been other times when the Queen has spoken about news issues of the day.
The Scottish referendum, 2014
Although not an official televised address, much was reported about the Queen’s comments to a well-wisher outside a church in Aberdeenshire, near the Balmoral estate.
When the stranger joked that they were not going to mention the upcoming referendum on whether Scotland should remain part of the union, the Queen remarked: “Well, I hope people will think very carefully about the future.”
Royal officials later insisted her comment did not breach the monarch’s impartiality.
In the 1997 campaign for Scottish independence, the Queen also sent a strong message to the Houses of Parliament when she said: “I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom.”
Speaking about the coronavirus vaccine in 2020 was not the first time the royal household has spoken out on vaccinations – although it is uncommon for the palace to speak about medical conditions of the senior royals.
In 1957, the Queen let it be known that both a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne had had the polio jab in a bid to encourage uptake among parents and those who had reservations.