Before Prince Harry and Meghan’s tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey on Sunday evening, the queen has a message of her own.
Queen Elizabeth II celebrated “unity” and “selfless dedication” amid challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic in her Commonwealth Day address Sunday, the first time royals have commemorated the annual occasion on TV only.
“The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others,” the 94-year-old monarch said in her address. She spoke in a voiceover atop shots of frontline workers in commonwealth nations.
The Commonwealth Day broadcast, which also featured appearances from other royals including Prince Charles, Duchess Camilla, Prince William and Duchess Kate, aired on BBC in the afternoon in the U.K., and on YouTube, where Americans could watch.
It has been in the works for weeks because of the pandemic, which ruled out the usual in-person service to protect the 94-year-old queen and everybody else from COVID-19. In contrast, the Harry and Meghan interview was a surprise when CBS announced it.
“Whilst experiences of the last year have been different across the Commonwealth, stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication to duty have been demonstrated in every Commonwealth nation and territory, notably by those working on the front line who have been delivering health care and other public services in their communities,” the queen continued. “We have also taken encouragement from remarkable advances in developing new vaccines and treatments.”
Philip, 99, has been hospitalized since Feb. 16, battling an infection and a pre-existing heart condition. On Thursday, he had a successful heart procedure and was expected to remain in the hospital for treatment, rest and recuperation “for a number of days,” according to Buckingham Palace.
Commonwealth Day, a major annual celebration of the 54 former territories of the British empire, is Monday. Ahead of the celebration, the queen called the coming week an “opportunity to reflect on a time like no other”: a year during which she and other royals have adjusted, among other things, to a calendar mostly consisting of virtual and television appearances rather than their usual in-person engagements.
“The need to maintain greater physical distance, or to live and work largely in isolation, has, for many people across the Commonwealth, been an unusual experience,” Queen Elizabeth reflected. “In our everyday lives, we have had to become more accustomed to connecting and communicating via innovative technology – which has been new to some of us – with conversations and communal gatherings, including Commonwealth meetings, conducted online, enabling people to stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues and counterparts, who they have not been able to meet in person.”
She added: “Increasingly we have found ourselves able to enjoy such communication, as it offers an immediacy that transcends boundaries or division, helping any sense of distance to disappear.”
Indeed, the world of video chatting has been new to many including the queenand her husband. In an interview last month, Prince Harry told James Corden that he, Meghan and their son Archie have “Zoomed” his grandparents a few times.
“My grandfather, instead of, like, pressing ‘leave meeting,’ he just goes ‘doof,’ ” Harry told Corden, miming slamming a laptop shut. “I’m like, ‘OK, bye!’ “
The queen closed her remarks celebrating the “support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings” and expressed hope in maintaining “this renewed sense of closeness and community.”
She concluded: “Looking forward, relationships with others across the Commonwealth will remain important, as we strive to deliver a common future that is sustainable and more secure, so that the nations and neighborhoods in which we live, wherever they are located, become healthier and happier places for us all.”