So, at precisely the promised time of 8.00pm, after all the teasers and trailers, we eventually got to hear the Queen herself uttering words we had heard so often by then that we could have recited many of them off by heart. They sounded much less doleful when read by her than when delivered by Nicholas Witchell. I’m sure no subliminal message will have been intended by the BBC’s insertion of the Queen’s speech into their Sunday evening schedule so that it headed up the Antiques Roadshow.
The most interesting thing about the speech for me, as a convinced republican, was that, in spite of the awkward programming juxtaposition, the Queen managed to avoid putting the monarchy on display as the curious antiquity it undoubtedly is. The speech was brilliantly crafted and modulated. The Queen managed to tell her subjects very clearly what to do in the present crisis without any majestic ordering or unqueenly pleading. She simply thanked the right people in the right way. The inevitable World War II analogy came via an indirect reference to a Vera Lynn wartime song rather than via the crude overstatements of current Prime Ministerial
rhetoric. What the Queen’s speech did, more than anything, was emphasise her gravitas in stark comparison to the lightweights who serve as her Ministers and are supposed to be leading the country out of this crisis on her behalf. Even the most ardent republican must, surely, be given at least slight pause when he or she looks across at the Head of State on the other side of the Atlantic and sees the ineffably (although eminently effably) awful Donald Trump and considers that our current alternative to the Queen as Head of State would be Trump’s ‘very good friend’ Boris