Sir David Attenborough remembers the Queen: ‘The whole nation is bereaved’

·2-min read

Sir David Attenborough has joined other influential figures in paying tribute to the Queen, saying she had an “extraordinary ability to put you at your ease”.

The environmentalist and broadcaster, who was first knighted by the Queen in 1985, has a long history and a strong relationship with the royal family, including the Queen, with whom he shared a strong rapport.

In a statement to the PA news agency, Sir David said: “If there was a technical hitch, she wanted to know what it was, and if it had a funny side, she was quick to see the joke.

The Queen and Sir David Attenborough during an event at Buckingham Palace , London, to showcase forestry projects that have been dedicated to the new conservation initiative – The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
The Queen and Sir David Attenborough during an event at Buckingham Palace , London, to showcase forestry projects that have been dedicated to the new conservation initiative – The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

“Yet not for one second could you forget that you were in the presence of someone who had willingly accepted enormous responsibility and dedicated her life to serving the nation – that you were, in short, in the presence of royalty.

“The whole nation is bereaved.”

The 96-year-old appeared with the monarch in 2018 in a documentary programme that followed the progress of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project, a project to create a network of protected Commonwealth forests around the globe in tribute to the Queen’s service to the family of nations.

The ITV documentary, The Queen’s Green Planet, featured a unique and informal conversation between the head of state and the veteran presenter, filmed in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

The Queen presents Sir David with the Insignia of the Order of Merit, a personal award from the Queen recognising exceptional achievements in the advancement of arts, learning, literature and science (Fiona Hanson/PA) (PA Archive)
The Queen presents Sir David with the Insignia of the Order of Merit, a personal award from the Queen recognising exceptional achievements in the advancement of arts, learning, literature and science (Fiona Hanson/PA) (PA Archive)

Sir David and the Queen had known each other for many years, with the broadcaster producing the Queen’s televised Christmas Day address for more than five years in the 1980s and 1990s.

With a career spanning seven decades, Sir David is a member of the Earthshot Prize council, an initiative launched by the Duke of Cornwall and Cambridge to find solutions to environmental issues.

The veteran broadcaster also featured in a segment of the BBC’s Platinum Party at the Palace earlier this year, to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Sir David Attenborough with the Queen at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Archive)
Sir David Attenborough with the Queen at the Royal Institution of Great Britain (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Archive)

In 2020, Sir David was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael And St George for services to television broadcasting and to conservation in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

The TV figure and Queen celebrated their 90th birthdays just weeks apart in 2016.

Sir David’s milestone was marked with a special BBC One programme, Attenborough At 90, which included a tribute from William, who said at the time: “There is something very calming and sort of warm about his programmes. There is something very reassuring about seeing David Attenborough on BBC One doing his documentaries. It is part of the national psyche now.

“He’s a national treasure and it is very fitting that he is having his 90th birthday only a few weeks after the Queen.

“They are two incredible national treasures who have done so much over the years.”