In the end, the Queen didn’t just follow in her father’s footsteps – she gave the floor to him. As people across Britain settled down to watch Elizabeth II mark 75 years since VE Day, they didn’t see their Monarch but the man who went before. The special broadcast to mark this historic moment was very much the King’s Speech, interpreted by his devoted daughter.
We knew that this special royal address would take place at 9pm, the same time that George VI spoke to the nation on Victory in Europe Day in 1945. But the Queen had a surprise for us. Her much anticipated address began with her father’s actual speech from three quarters of a century earlier. And throughout the following minutes, the message Elizabeth II went on to convey was one her father himself might have spoken.
The central theme, to never give up, was one King George VI had stood firm behind throughout World War Two. The Queen’s reflection on the totality of the conflict and of the devastating impact it had on so many lives was one that her predecessor had made himself many times before. Her observation that we are not alone, even in these strangest of times, for our streets are filled with love, was a message that could have come from the king himself.
In fact, we were left with the impression that this speech might have been made by George VI just as easily as Elizabeth II. For five minutes, they were one and the same. The words we heard him speak at its very start were mirrored throughout the address that followed. ”Let us remember the men and all the services, the women and all the services who have laid down their lives” the King said across the decades. Moments later, his daughter reflected on the same, saying ”Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict. They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad”. At every turn in this speech, the people came first. That was very much George VI.
For the great success of Us Four, as the King liked to call his family, was their innate empathy with those who walked the terrible path of war with them. The Queen understood better than anyone today that VE Day commemorations are not just a way to remember and say thank you. They are another historic moment for those who were there on the day itself. She knew that, to them, King George VI means a huge amount. To have him speak to them once more, if only for a moment, will have brought great comfort. It wasn’t just a personal gesture, a nod to her beloved father. It was an offering to the generation we all thank today.
Yes, there were the obvious tributes to the king. The aquamarine brooches the Queen wore were the present her father and the Queen Mother had given her for her 18th birthday when war was still raging while she was seldom on screen without a portrait of George VI at her side. But ultimately, this speech wasn’t about gestures. This was a heartfelt message that Elizabeth has carried with her since that famous night in 1945. It was a promise between father and daughter, a message of Monarchs and a Queen speaking alongside a King.