Ian Haysom, a veteran journalist and writer, is a news consultant for CHEK. His coronavirus diary will appear here regularly.
At first, I thought the Queen – our Queen – had forgotten us.
There she was, broadcasting live to the Commonwealth from Windsor Castle, and it was all about Britain.
Television stations across Canada, including CHEK, broadcasted her address live. She was in splendid self-isolation. Even the sole camera operator allowed into the room had to be dressed in protective clothing for her sake. After all, she is 93 years old.
She was perfectly coiffed and dressed in vivid green. Do her ladies-in-waiting wear face masks, or is she doing her own hair, like the rest of us? If so, she could get a part-time job at MagiCuts or Vivienne’s Hair and Nails.
She thanked Britain’s National Health Service. She talked of a disruption in the life of “our country” and she talked about how “the nation” will join me in assuring you that what you do is appreciated and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.”
And I thought, hang on a minute. You’re our Queen too. You’re on our banknotes, on our stamps, and your picture hangs in government offices and our local post office, and we’re going through a little bit of hell over here too, so maybe a little nod to your loyal Canadian subjects, eh? You’re not ticked off Harry and Meghan and Archie found refuge here?
And then, about halfway through, after it had all been the United Kingdom and “our country” and this proud and good-humoured nation, we got a nod. Well, the Commonwealth did. She said, “Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen heart-warming stories of people coming together to help others, be it through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours, or converting businesses to help the relief effort.”
Many, I’m sure, will find it reassuring that this great-grandmother sitting in her castle on the other side of the pond is telling us it was all going to be OK.
Whatever we believe in she said, “And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.”
I found that quite stirring. And inclusive. No matter what our faith, even if we’re not part of the Church of England, or Anglican church invented by another monarch centuries ago so he could divorce the first of his six wives, we are all in this too.
But then she played her ace card. We saw a picture of the teenage Elizabeth and her younger sister making an address to the Commonwealth 80 years ago.
“It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety. Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do,” she said.
We have faced challenges before, she said, but this one is different.
“This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, 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.”
We shall overcome. And, as Vera Lynn sang in another world crisis, we will meet again.
Amazing how a little old lady can still have an impact.
I may not be a strong monarchist, but thanks ma’am. We needed that. Right now we need every bit of positive thinking we can get.
Read the previous diaries here: