At 6pm on September 5 1997, The Queen spoke live to the nation to pay tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, who died a week earlier in Paris.
Her Majesty was placed under considerable pressure to deliver the unprecedented speech following a barrage of criticism directed at the monarch for her behaviour in the days after Diana’s death.
The Queen had drawn criticism for staying in Scotland with Princes William and Harry and for not lowering the flag at Buckingham Palace.
But her speech on the eve of Diana’s funeral showed that her first duty had been “as a grandmother” to her grieving grandchildren and shifted public sentiment.
The Queen’s Address to the nation in full:
“Since last Sunday’s dreadful news we have seen, throughout Britain and around the world, an overwhelming expression of sadness at Diana’s death.
“We have all been trying in our different ways to cope. It is not easy to express a sense of loss, since the initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings: disbelief, incomprehension, anger – and concern for those who remain. We have all felt those emotions in these last few days. So what I say to you now, as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart.
“First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness. I admired and respected her – for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys. This week at Balmoral, we have all been trying to help William and Harry come to terms with the devastating loss that they and the rest of us have suffered.
“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.
“This is also an opportunity for me, on behalf of my family, and especially Prince Charles and William and Harry, to thank all of you who have brought flowers, sent messages and paid your respects in so many ways to a remarkable person. These acts of kindness have been a huge source of help and comfort.
“Our thoughts are also with Diana’s family and the families of those who died with her. I know that they too have drawn strength from what has happened since last weekend, as they seek to heal their sorrow and then to face the future without a loved one.
“I hope that tomorrow we can all, wherever we are, join in expressing our grief at Diana’s loss, and gratitude for her all-too-short life. It is a chance to show to the whole world the British nation united in grief and respect.
“May those who died rest in peace and may we, each and every one of us, thank God for someone who made many, many people happy.”
This was only the second time The Queen had addressed the nation outside of her Christmas Day broadcast.
The first occasion was in 1991 when the monarch addressed the nation on the Gulf War – her only wartime broadcast.
Subsequently, Her Majesty has made speeches upon the death of her mother, a celebratory message to mark her Diamond Jubilee, and just this year released two messages.
One of her 2020 addressed to the nation concerned the ongoing public health emergency, and the other marked the 75th anniversary of VE Day.