Queen Elizabeth II: Better days will return after coronavirus

Monarch evokes images of wartime in her televised speech

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II reassured the public that "better days will return" where people will be able to reunite with friends and family after the coronavirus pandemic.

The rare address came hours before UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital for tests as he continues to battle Covid-19. He is one of the 47,806 people in the UK who have the virus that has killed at least 4,934.

“While we have faced challenges before, this one is different,” she said. “This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal.

“We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us.”

Coronavirus around the world

"I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge," said the queen, 93.

“And those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any."

She thanked front-line and care workers, and the public for staying at home.

She recalled her first broadcast in 1940 as a teenager growing up during the Second World War, with her sister Margaret.

“We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety," the queen said.

"Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know deep down that it is the right thing to do.”

The speech, which was recorded in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle to allow enough distance between the monarch and the single cameraman wearing protective equipment, evoked echoes of wartime.

“The moments when the UK has come together will be remembered,” the queen said.

Other than her annual Christmas address, the monarch rarely makes such public announcements. She delivered speeches after the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, before the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, and at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991.

Her son and the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, tested positive for the coronavirus but has since recovered after displaying mild symptoms and isolating himself.

Leadership expert James O’Rourke from the University of Notre Dame told The Associated Press that the monarch’s remarks couldn’t have come a moment too soon. With Mr Johnson ill with the virus himself, the queen offers a message of continuity to a country in 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,” he said. “Now, more than ever, the people of the UK must have someone to rely upon, someone whose word they can trust.”

The queen invoked the words of the Second World War-era song We'll Meet Again by Vera Lynn that offered hope to many a soldier sent to fight, promising that loved ones would be reunited in the end. The parallel was unmistakable: it can't last forever.

“We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return,” she said. “We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”

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