LONDON — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, who died on Sept. 8 aged 96 and whose funeral was taking place on Monday, never gave an interview during her 70-year reign, but her regular public speeches sometimes gave an insight into her private thoughts.
Here is a selection of extracts from speeches, addresses and contributions to documentaries given by the queen:
“It’s inevitable that I should seem a rather remote figure
to many of you, a successor to the kings and queens of history.
“I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or
administer justice. But I can do something else. I can give you
my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the
peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”
– First televised Christmas broadcast in 1957.
“When peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children
of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier
place. My sister is by my side and we are both going to say
goodnight to you. Come on, Margaret. Goodnight, children.
Goodnight, and good luck to you all.”
– Wartime broadcast with her younger sister, Princess
Margaret, Oct. 13, 1940.
“We cheered the king and the queen on the balcony and then
walked miles through the streets. I remember lines of unknown
people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just
swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.
“I think it was one of the most memorable nights of my
– Speaking to the BBC in 1985 about joining street
celebrations for VE Day in London in May 1945.
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be
long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service
of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
– Speech on her 21st birthday, April 21, 1947, broadcast on
the radio from Cape Town.
“The ceremonies you have seen today are ancient, and some of
their origins are veiled in the mists of the past. But their
spirit and their meaning shine through the ages never, perhaps,
more brightly than now.
“I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so
many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with
all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of your trust.”
– Speech on her Coronation Day, June 2, 1953.
“Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of disagreements.”
– Speech to heads of state aboard the royal yacht Britannia,
“1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with
undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic
correspondents, it has turned out to be an ‘annus horribilis’.”
– Speech in the City of London, November 1992 after a fire
at Windsor Castle and the failure of three of her children’s
“What I say to you now, as your queen and as a grandmother,
I say from my heart … No one who knew Diana will ever forget
her. Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew
her, will remember her.
“I for one believe there are lessons to be drawn from her
life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her
death. I share in your determination to cherish her memory.”
– Televised address following the death of Princess Diana in
a car crash in Paris, September 1997.
“He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments but he
has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years,
and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries,
owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall
– Tribute to her husband Prince Philip in speech to mark
their Golden wedding anniversary in London, Nov. 20, 1997.
“For I know that, despite the huge constitutional difference
between a hereditary monarchy and an elected government, in
reality the gulf is not so wide … And each, in its different
way, exists only with the support and consent of the people.
“That consent, or the lack of it, is expressed for you,
prime minister, through the ballot box. It is a tough, even
brutal, system but at least the message is a clear one for all
to read. For us, a royal family, however, the message is often
harder to read, obscured as it can be by deference, rhetoric or
the conflicting currents of public opinion.
“But read it we must.”
– Speech on Nov. 20, 1997, at Banqueting House in London.
“Reflecting on these events makes me grateful for the
blessings of home and family, and in particular for 70 years of
marriage. I don’t know that anyone had invented the term
‘platinum’ for a 70th wedding anniversary when I was born. You
weren’t expected to be around that long.
“Even Prince Philip has decided it’s time to slow down a
little – having, as he economically put it, ‘done his bit’.”
– Christmas broadcast in 2017.
“While we have faced challenges before, this one is
different. This time we join with all nations across the globe
in a common endeavor, 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.
“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.”
– Televised address on April 5, 2020, after outbreak of
“Although it’s a time of great happiness and good cheer for
many, Christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones.
This year, especially, I understand why.
But for me, in the months since the death of my beloved
Philip, I have drawn great comfort from the warmth and affection
of the many tributes to his life and work – from around the
country, the Commonwealth and the world.
“His sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity
to squeeze fun out of any situation – were all irrepressible.
That mischievous, enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as
when I first set eyes on him.”
– Christmas broadcast 2021
“As we mark this anniversary, it gives me pleasure to renew
to you the pledge I gave in 1947 that my life will always be
devoted to your service.”
“And so as I look forward to continuing to serve you with
all my heart, I hope this Jubilee will bring together families
and friends, neighbors and communities – after some difficult
times for so many of us – in order to enjoy the celebrations and
to reflect on the positive developments in our day-to-day lives
that have so happily coincided with my reign.”
– Message on Feb. 6, 2022, to mark the 70th anniversary of
her accession to the throne.
—Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Alex Richardson and Alison Williams