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Princess Anne speaks of the lesson we can all still learn from Edith Cavell, 100 years after her execution

The Princess Royal has spoken of the example that Edith Cavell, who was executed 100 years ago this week, still provides for healthcare professionals around the world.

Speaking at a special event held at the Belgian Senate on the centenary of Edith Cavell’s death, Princess Anne said that the British nurse broke new ground in healthcare and was a pioneer as well as a patriot. Edith Cavell was shot by a German firing squad on the morning of October 12th 1915 and one hundred years on, Princess Anne said that the nurse had remained dignified and courageous to the very end of her life.

The Princess Royal travelled to Belgium for two days of events to mark the centenary of Edith Cavell’s death and on the anniversary itself she joined Princess Astrid, sister of King Philippe of the Belgians, for two very special events. The two princesses firstly went to Montjoie Park in Uccle to unveil a new bust of Edith Cavell.

The British nurse had been working in Belgium when the Great War began, and the country was occupied by German troops. She helped smuggle Allied soldiers out but was caught and tried and condemned for treason by the Germans. Despite pleas from the Vatican and the United States, she was executed. Her body was brought home to England in 1919.

Princess Anne and Princess Astrid then travelled to the Senate in Brussels where Edith Cavell was tried and condemned to death in 1915. The two princesses both made speeches paying tribute to the life and work of Nurse Cavell. Princess Anne recalled the passion Edith Cavell had for her work in her address to the Senate, telling them that her pioneering ideas in health care would ”inspire future generations of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers as they develop new ways of working and as they continue to work in dangerous or challenging situations”.

The Princess Royal reminded those listening that Edith Cavell, even before World War One, had faced real battles to establish nursing as a respectable profession and spoke of the prejudices she had had to endure as she worked towards providing excellent training for nurses, adding ”As president of Save the Children I have witnessed nurses and health workers doing the same in conflict zones, in the aftermath of disasters and in raising standards of children’s health all over the world”.

Later, Princess Anne went on to visit a hospital to hear more about the work of nurses in Belgium today after telling the Belgian Senate ”Nurses and healthcare workers need our support and encouragement and we remember …that it was as a direct result of Edith Cavell’s execution that the Edith Cavell Nurses’ Trust came into being. I do believe that this a real way forward to remember Edith Cavell, her commitment and her investment in nurse training and her understanding of their values in the future. ”.

Featured photo credit: Department for Transport (DfT) via Flickr

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