Queen Elizabeth paid tribute to healthcare workers and praised everyone who is making great changes to their lives amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a rare televised address that aired in the U.K. on Sunday, the monarch, 93, expressed her gratitude for the efforts people are taking to stop the spread of the virus and acknowledged the severe challenges being faced by families across the world.
“I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time,” the Queen said at the start of the broadcast. “A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.”
“I want to thank everyone on the NHS front line, as well as care workers and those carrying out essential roles, who selflessly continue their day-to-day duties outside the home in support of us all. 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,” she added. “I also want to thank those of you who are staying at home, thereby helping to protect the vulnerable and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones.”
Her Majesty The Queen addresses the UK and the Commonwealth in a special broadcast recorded at Windsor Castle. pic.twitter.com/HjO1uiV1Tm— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) April 5, 2020
As her message continued, the monarch emphasized the need to band together as a country, united in fortitude and strength.
“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it,” she said. “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country.”
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“The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future. The moments when the United Kingdom has come together to applaud its care and essential workers will be remembered as an expression of our national spirit; and its symbol will be the rainbows drawn by children,” she continued. “Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen heart-warming stories of people coming together to help others, be it through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours, or converting businesses to help the relief effort. And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.”
Remarking on her own past, the Queen noted that she was reminded of another time she addressed her nation at a difficult moment in history.
“It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety,” she 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.”
“While we have faced challenges before, this one is different,” she added. “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.”
As the broadcast came to a close, the Queen reiterated that the tough times will not last forever.
“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,” she said. “But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all.”
She recorded the message with a solo camera operator, who was wearing gloves and a mask, at Windsor Castle in the White Drawing room, where she and husband Prince Philip, 98, has been staying since mid-March.
The Queen has only made a few similar addresses to the nation and the wider world during her 68-year reign (though she does record a Christmas message every year). Her past televised speeches occurred most famously on the eve of the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997, at her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, upon the death of her mother, the Queen Mother in 2002, and during the Gulf War in 1991.
The monarch is believed to be in good health and continuing her work, such as receiving her official paperwork and documents in her famous “red boxes,” behind the scenes. She is also continuing to hold her weekly audience with Prime Minister Johnson, although they are now taking place by phone.
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The Queen had previously agreed with the U.K. government to record a TV address, but she had been waiting for the right time to go ahead.
“Everyone has had some time to adjust to the new ways of living and working and it felt appropriate now to thank people and acknowledge the difficulties that many people are facing,” a royal source tells PEOPLE.
When she relocated to Windsor, 30 miles west of London, the Queen issued a short written statement expressing solidarity with the country as it went through the difficult times and upheaval that has come with the virus.
“As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty,” she said.
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“We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them. At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.
“We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services; but now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals – today and in the coming days, weeks and months.”