The Queen in her own words: How she led Britain through highs and lows

·5-min read

Throughout seven decades as Queen, Elizabeth recorded a Christmas message every single year except for one – 1969.

Each time she would reflect on the events of the past year, and praised the resilient spirit of the British people through times of war, violence and hardship.

She made just five special, unscheduled broadcasts throughout her reign, which included one after the death of Princess Diana and another during the coronavirus lockdown.

Here Sky News looks back at some of her most memorable quotes.

October 1940: Second World War

The Queen gave her first public speech at the age of just 14.

Still Princess Elizabeth, she spoke on the BBC's Children's Hour during the war, urging people to have hope it would end soon.

"We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well; for God will care for us and give us victory and peace.

"And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place."

April 1947: Her 21st birthday

Princess Elizabeth gave a speech to mark her milestone birthday, unbeknownst to her that she would become Queen upon the death of her father just five years later.

"I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong."

June 1953: After her coronation

The Queen addressed the nation on the evening of her coronation.

She said it should serve as a symbol of hope and possibility for the future.

"I am sure that this, my coronation, is not the symbol of a power and a splendour that are gone but a declaration of our hopes for the future, and for the years I may, by God's grace and mercy, be given to reign and serve you as your Queen."

December 1957: First televised Christmas message

Her Christmas message in 1957 was the first ever to be televised.

She used the opportunity to share her feelings about how quickly technology was changing.

"That it is possible for some of you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around us.

"Because of these changes I am not surprised that many people feel lost and unable to decide what to hold on to and what to discard.

"How to take advantage of the new life without losing the best of the old."

December 1966: Women's struggles

The Queen used her Christmas broadcast in 1966 not to congratulate England's World Cup-winning football team, but instead to address challenges faced by women in the UK.

Abortion was still illegal and gender discrimination was still rife in the workplace at the time.

"It is difficult to realise that it was less than 50 years ago that women in Britain were first given the vote, but parliament was first asked to grant this 100 years ago.

"Yet, in spite of these disabilities, it has been women who have breathed gentleness and care into the harsh progress of mankind."

December 1972: Troubles in Northern Ireland

Following Bloody Sunday, the Queen spoke of violence in Northern Ireland during her Christmas message in 1972.

"Every day there are reports of violence, lawlessness, and the disregard for human life.

"I want to send a special message of sympathy to all those men, women and children who have suffered and endured so much.

"But there is a light in this tragic situation. The people are steadfastly carrying on their ordinary business in their factories and places of work."

February 1991: Gulf War

One of the five special televised broadcasts made by the Queen was recorded at Buckingham Palace in 1991 while British troops were fighting in the Persian Gulf.

"As they, with our allies, face a fresh and yet sterner challenge, I hope that we can unite, and pray that their success will be as swift as it is certain and that it may be achieved with as small a cost in human life and suffering as possible.

"Then may the true reward of their courage be granted - a just and lasting peace."

December 1992: 'Annus Horribilis'

In 1992, the Queen experienced three of her four children's marriages break down, a fire at Windsor Castle and a book detailing Charles and Diana's turbulent relationship.

She made no secret it was a year she would rather forget.

"1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis'. I suspect that I am not alone in thinking it so."

September 1997: Death of Princess Diana

Following Diana's death, the Queen made an unprecedented speech paying tribute to her.

Despite this, she was widely criticised for much of her reaction.

"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 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."

November 1997: Golden wedding anniversary to Prince Philip

When the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh celebrated 50 years together in 1997, an anniversary dinner was arranged at Banqueting House in London.

She paid an emotional tribute to him, despite his dislike of compliments.

"He is someone who doesn't take easily to compliments but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know."

September 2001: 9/11 attacks in New York

The Queen's message of condolence to the families of victims lost in the 9/11 attacks was widely reused on the death of her husband, Prince Philip.

"Nothing that can be said can begin to take away the anguish and the pain of these moments. Grief is the price we pay for love."

April 2002: Death of the Queen Mother

Another of the Queen's five special broadcasts took place on the eve of her mother's funeral.

This was also the year she celebrated her Golden Jubilee.

"My family and I always knew what she meant for the people of this country and the special place she occupied in the hearts of so many here, in the Commonwealth and in other parts of the world.

"But the extent of the tribute that huge numbers of you have paid my mother in the last few days has been overwhelming. I have drawn great comfort from so many individual acts of kindness and respect."

December 2005: 7/7 bombings in London

The terror attacks of July 2007 were the main subject of the Queen's Christmas message that year.

"I have sometimes thought that humanity seemed to have turned on itself - with wars, civil disturbances and acts of brutal terrorism.

"These human tragedies provided the headline news; they also provoked a quite remarkable humanitarian response.

"People of compassion all over the world responded with immediate practical and financial help."

June 2006: Football

Sir David Richards, then-chairman of the Premier League, was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2006.
As she bestowed the honour on him, she gave her thoughts on the 'beautiful game'

"Football's a difficult business, and aren't they prima donnas? But it's a wonderful game."

December 2008: Financial crash

The Queen addressed those who had suffered the effects of the 2008 global financial crisis in her Christmas message that year.

"Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain and, naturally, give rise to feelings of insecurity.

"Over the years, those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives; the kind of people who are generous with their talents or their time."

December 2012: London Olympics

As well as her Diamond Jubilee, the Queen reflected on a "splendid summer of sport" in her 2012 Christmas message.

"All those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes.

"We were reminded, too, that the success of these great festivals depended to an enormous degree upon the dedication and effort of an army of volunteers.

"Those public-spirited people came forward in the great tradition of all those who devote themselves to keeping others safe, supported and comforted."

September 2015: Becoming the longest-reigning British monarch

On 9 September 2015, the Queen surpassed her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria as the longest-serving monarch in British history.

At that point she had served as Queen for 23,226 days - more than 63 years - beating Victoria's record.

She acknowledged the moment as she opened a railway in the Scottish Borders.

"Many... have kindly noted another significance attaching to today, although it is not one to which I have ever aspired. Inevitably, a long life can pass by many milestones. My own is no exception."

December 2016: More Olympic wins in Rio

At the next Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Team GB won 67 medals and 147 Paralympic medals.

"To be inspirational you don't have to save lives or win medals.

"I often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special.

"They are an inspiration to those who know them."

April 2020: Coronavirus

After the prime minister imposed a national lockdown in late March, the Queen organised for a special broadcast to made at Windsor Castle.

It was filmed by a single cameraman in full personal protective equipment.

"Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.

"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."

May 2020: 75th anniversary of VE Day

The Queen was just 19 when victory was declared in Europe and the Second World War came to an end.

She and her sister Margaret were permitted to go incognito to celebrate with the crowds in London.

But in lockdown, anniversary celebrations were unable to go ahead as planned.

"Today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish.

"Instead we remember from our homes and our doorsteps. But our streets are not empty; they are filled with the love and the care that we have for each other.

"And when I look at our country today, and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognise and admire."

November 2021: COP26 conference on climate change

The Queen was unable to attend the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow as planned, following a short stay in hospital and doctors ordering her to rest.

While Prince Charles and the Duke of Cambridge took her place, she recorded a video message for delegates instead.

"For more than 70 years, I have been lucky to meet and to know many of the world's great leaders. And I have perhaps come to understand a little about what made them special.

"It has sometimes been observed that what leaders do for their people today is government and politics. But what they do for the people of tomorrow - that is statesmanship.

"I, for one, hope that this conference will be one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship."

June 2022: Platinum Jubilee

The 96-year-old Queen was unable to attend most of the events planned for her Platinum Jubilee due to mobility problems.

However, she did appear to acknowledge crowds from the Buckingham Palace balcony, where she appeared alongside another potential monarch - Prince George.

Prince Charles and Prince William spoke on her behalf, thanking the hundreds of thousands of people who took part and spectated, but she did release a statement to express her gratitude.

"When it comes to how to mark 70 years as your Queen, there isn't a guidebook to follow. It really is a first.

"But I have been humbled and deeply touched that so many people have taken to the streets to celebrate my Platinum Jubilee.

"While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart has been with you all. I have been inspired by your kindness, joy and kinship that has been so evident in recent days, and I hope this renewed sense of togetherness will be felt for many years to come."