Queen Elizabeth II – 2007 Christmas Broadcast

One of the features of growing old is a heightened awareness of change. To remember what happened 50 years ago means that it is possible to appreciate what has changed in the meantime. It also makes you aware of what has remained constant.

In my experience, the positive value of a happy family is one of the factors of human existence that has not changed. The immediate family of grandparents, parents and children, together with their extended family, is still the core of a thriving community.

When Prince Philip and I celebrated our Diamond Wedding last month, we were much aware of the affection and support of our own family as they gathered round us for the occasion.

Now today, of course, marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Among other things, it is a reminder that it is the story of a family; but of a family in very distressed circumstances. Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn; they had to make do in a stable, and the new-born Jesus had to be laid in a manger. This was a family which had been shut out.

Perhaps it was because of this early experience that, throughout his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth reached out and made friends with people whom others ignored or despised. It was in this way that he proclaimed his belief that, in the end, we are all brothers and sisters in one human family.

The Christmas story also draws attention to all those people who are on the edge of society – people who feel cut off and disadvantaged; people who, for one reason or another, are not able to enjoy the full benefits of living in a civilised and law-abiding community. For these people the modern world can seem a distant and hostile place.

It is all too easy to ‘turn a blind eye’, ‘to pass by on the other side’, and leave it to experts and professionals. All the great religious teachings of the world press home the message that everyone has a responsibility to care for the vulnerable. Fortunately, there are many groups and individuals, often unsung and unrewarded, who are dedicated to ensuring that the ‘outsiders’ are given a chance to be recognised and respected. However, each one of us can also help by offering a little time, a talent or a possession, and taking a share in the responsibility for the well-being of those who feel excluded.

And also today I want to draw attention to another group of people who deserve our thoughts this Christmas. We have all been conscious of those who have given their lives, or who have been severely wounded, while serving with the Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The dedication of the National Armed Forces Memorial was also an occasion to remember those who have suffered while serving in these and every other place of unrest since the end of the Second World War.

For their families, Christmas will bring back sad memories, and I pray that all of you, who are missing those who are dear to you, will find strength and comfort in your families and friends.

A familiar introduction to an annual Christmas Carol Service contains the words: ‘Because this would most rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved.’

Wherever these words find you, and in whatever circumstances, I want to wish you all a blessed Christmas.

Queen Elizabeth II – 2003 Speech at CHOGM Opening

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Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting on 3rd December 2003.

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your invitation to visit Nigeria and for your kind words of welcome. Prince Philip and I have many vivid memories of our visit here in 1956. Although much has changed since then, the warmth of the Nigerian welcome remains a constant and we have again been touched by the generous reception we have been given.

Mr. President, my visit is a demonstration of the value Britain attaches to its relations with Nigeria and a recognition of the role this country plays on the international stage. The links between our two countries of course have deep historical roots, but it is also a living and expanding relationship.

Thousands of Nigerians visit the United Kingdom every year for business and pleasure. Many are enrolled in British universities, colleges and schools. And British citizens of Nigerian descent continue to make a valuable contribution in many areas of British life at national and local level.

The United Kingdom is well represented in Nigeria. British investment in the economy is worth billions of pounds and more than four thousand British citizens live and work here. The British Council is this year celebrating sixty years of helping to spread knowledge of modern British life across your country and the BBC World Service reaches many Nigerians in their homes. My government also provides significant development support for Nigerian programmes in areas as varied as universal basic education, access to justice and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Nigeria has much to be proud of. Your natural wealth has made it the world’s sixth largest oil exporter. You have writers and artists, international laureates, celebrated sports and music stars, and heads of international organisations. You have built this fine new capital which this year has so successfully hosted the All Africa Games. Abroad, you play an important role in the region and in the continent as a whole. And, as Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria has an important voice on global issues. My country particularly applauds the leading part the Nigerian Government and people are playing in the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the international community’s efforts to bring peace and stability to Liberia, Sierra Leone and other nations wracked by conflict in West Africa. It is fitting that Nigeria should host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this year.

You will know better than I that Nigeria has also suffered adversity and reverses. So Britain and the wider international community rejoiced at Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999. We also recognised the importance of the elections held earlier this year and the civilian transition that followed. We welcome your government’s plans for much-needed political, economic and judicial reform, poverty alleviation and the fight against corruption.

These are huge challenges. I am told that a Nigerian proverb runs: “never start a journey if you have no plan to finish it”. Mr. President, it matters to the United Kingdom and to the other countries of the Commonwealth that Nigeria does not falter on the journey of development and democracy. Without prosperity – and democracy – in Nigeria, there will be no lasting prosperity in Africa; and without that prosperity in Africa, there cannot be lasting prosperity, with good conscience, in our world.

Queen Elizabeth II – 2000 Speech at Berlin Embassy

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Below is the text of the speech made by HM Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of the British Embassy in Berlin on 18th July 2000.

Mr President, Mr Foreign Minister, Mr Governing Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen.

As Sir Paul Lever and his predecessors can testify, I have been asking British Ambassadors about this building project ever since I laid the foundation stone in 1992. I am pleased to be here today to open the new British Embassy in Berlin and to welcome you all to this ceremony.

This is a British-German project. A British architect, Michael Wilford and Partners, won the competition to design the building. A German consortium, Arteos, won the competition to build it. Both have worked closely with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who, for the first time, were charged with building a new Embassy in public/private partnership, and with the Berlin authorities. I congratulate all of those involved in it.

As I look back at my previous four visits to Germany since 1965, it is gratifying to see how much has been achieved. Berlin and Germany are now one. But history has not, of course, come to an end. We have before us a further European task. That is to expand the European Union so that those countries who for over fifty years were artificially excluded from the mainstream of European life can soon rejoin it, so that Europe as a whole, like Germany, can be without division. Berlin will no longer be an outpost but a geographic centre of the continent. Where formerly West and East confronted each other, now they can come together here.

This site in the Wilhelmstrasse is where the British Embassy stood between 1875 and 1939. During that period the name of the street, like that of Whitehall, was synonymous with the Government and the street is once again at the heart of Berlin and of Germany’s national political life.

But relations between countries today, and certainly relations between member states of the European Union, are no longer the preserve of governments. It is contacts between people which matter; and contacts with all the various organisations, public and private, which represent people.

This Embassy building is designed to reflect the challenges of this new diplomacy. It is of course the place where Embassy staff go about their business. But it is more than that: it is conceived as a showcase for Britain, and a meeting place with Germany; an instrument to reach a wider German public; a place where, we hope, many Berliners, and many from outside Berlin, will have occasion to visit. The design of the building is itself a statement of this intention: open, transparent, innovative.

So, even if it is natural in the Wilhelmstrasse to think of the past, the accent today is on the future; the future of Berlin, Germany and Europe, and of German/British relations. I shall this afternoon at the British Council be meeting young Germans who have studied in Britain, and young Britons who have studied in Germany. They are, together, our common future.

Knowledge of other countries and of other languages will be of increasing value as the world becomes more interdependent and as communication becomes a more important feature of the global economy. I therefore warmly welcome the work which is being done by so many organisations to promote youth and student exchanges between Britain and Germany. I am glad that, as a result of the new Internet Exchange Initiative, a new website is being developed for this purpose. In these ways the partnership between our two countries, which is of such vital importance, can deepen and widen. Ladies and Gentlemen, Just before this ceremony I had the pleasure of meeting some of the Embassy staff who will in the next few months be starting to work here. Their enthusiasm for their new building was plain to see. For them, and for all the many people who will use this Embassy in the years to come to build ever closer relations between the United Kingdom and Germany, I have great pleasure in declaring the building open.

Queen Elizabeth II – 1977 Jubilee Speech to Parliament

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My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,

I am deeply grateful for your Loyal Addresses and for the kind and generous words in which the Lord Chancellor and Mr. Speaker have expressed them.

Thank you also for what you have said about my family and the service they have given over the years. You will understand that for me personally their support has been invaluable.

It is appropriate that I should come to Westminster at the start of the Jubilee celebrations in the United Kingdom. Here, in a meeting of Sovereign and Parliament, the essence of Constitutional Monarchy is reflected.

It is a form of Government in which those who represent the main elements of the community can come together to reconcile conflicting interests and to strive for the hopes and aims we all share. It has adapted itself to the changes in our own society and in international relationships, yet it has remained true to its essential role. It has provided the fabric of good order in society and has been the guardian of the liberties of individual citizens.

These 25 years have seen much change for Britain. By virtue of tolerance and understanding, the Empire has evolved into a Commonwealth of 36 Independent Nations spanning the five Continents. No longer an Imperial Power, we have been coming to terms with what this means for ourselves and for our relations with the rest of the world.

We have forged new links with other countries and in joining the European Economic Communities we have taken what is perhaps one of the most significant decisions during my reign.

At home there are greater opportunities for all sorts and conditions of men and women. Developments in science, technology and in medicine have improved the quality and comfort of life and, of course, there has also been television!

We in Government and Parliament have to accept the challenges which this progress imposes on us. And they are considerable.

The problems of progress, the complexities of modern administration, the feeling that Metropolitan Government is too remote from the lives of ordinary men and women, these among other things have helped to revive an awareness of historic national identities in these Islands. They provide the background for the continuing and keen discussion of proposals for devolution to Scotland and Wales within the United Kingdom.

I number Kings and Queens of England and of Scotland, and Princes of Wales among my ancestors and so I can readily understand these aspirations.

But I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Perhaps this Jubilee is a time to remind ourselves of the benefits which union has conferred, at home and in our international dealings, on the inhabitants of all parts of this United Kingdom.

A Jubilee is also a time to look forward! We should certainly do this with determination and I believe we can also do so with hope. We have so many advantages, the basic stability of our institutions, our traditions of public service and concern for others, our family life and, above all, the freedom which you and your predecessors in Parliament have, through the ages, so fearlessly upheld.

My Lords, Members of the House of Commons. For me the 25th anniversary of my Accession is a moving occasion. It is also, I hope, for all of us a joyous one. May it also be a time in which we can all draw closer together.

Thank you again! I begin these celebrations much encouraged by your good wishes and expressions of loyalty.