The annual Commonwealth Day service saw the royal family unite for a broadcast — without Harry and Meghan

March 07, 2021 12:15 PM
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Queen Elizabeth

Queen Elizabeth is addressing the world just hours before Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's sit-down with Oprah Winfrey is set to air.

The Queen led the royal family in honoring the people that make up the 54 nations of the Commonwealth in a special televised service on Sunday. The 94-year-old monarch used her address to pay tribute to the way in which communities across the family of nations have come together in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has struck the world since the last Commonwealth Day.

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"Over the coming week, as we celebrate the friendship, spirit of unity and achievements of the Commonwealth, we have an opportunity to reflect on a time like no other," the Queen said at the start of her speech. "The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others."

"The need to maintain greater physical distance, or to live and work largely in isolation, has, for many people across the Commonwealth, been an unusual experience. In our everyday lives, we have had to become more accustomed to connecting and communicating via innovative technology - which has been new to some of us," added the monarch, who has mastered the art of the video call herself.

With an eye towards the future, the Queen expressed hope that "we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community."

"Looking forward, relationships with others across the Commonwealth will remain important, as we strive to deliver a common future that is sustainable and more secure, so that the nationals and neighbourhoods in which we live, wherever they are located, become healthier and happier places for all," she said.

The TV event, which replaced the annual Commonwealth Day service that typically takes place at Westminster Abbey and was canceled due to the pandemic, aired on the BBC on Sunday afternoon. Later this evening, Meghan and Harry will undertake their much-anticipated interview with Oprah on CBS.

commonwealth day 2020
The royal family on Commonwealth Day in 2020
| Credit: PHIL HARRIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Last year's service on March 9 turned out to be the last public duty that Meghan and Harry undertook before they stepped down as working members of the royal family in March 2020.

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Sunday's royal broadcast also included Kate Middleton and Prince William talking to medical, charity and volunteer staffers from across the Commonwealth. In a series of calls, William and Kate asked what inspired the frontline workers to support their communities, the impact of their vital work and how they have adapted their efforts in response to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.  

Environmental champion Prince Charles was shown in a recorded message celebrating the critical work being carried out by nations across the Commonwealth to combat climate change and protect its unique landscapes, marine environments and biodiversity. Meanwhile, his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall chatted with TV presenter Clare Balding about the importance of books and reading for children across the Commonwealth, especially in a year of isolation and disrupted education.

Ahead of International Women's day on Monday, Sophie, the Countess of Wessex was seen speaking to three women from around the Commonwealth to hear about their experiences of supporting other women and their wider communities. 

Last week, the Queen, whose husband Prince Philip is in the hospital following a heart procedure, continued to stay in touch with the Commonwealth holding a video meeting with the Governor of South Australia, His Excellency the Hon. Hieu Van Le, and the Hon. Steven Marshall MP, Premier of South Australia. They spoke about how the region has handled the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccinating key workers and lifting restrictions. She also learned how South Australia has recovered from the drought and bushfires in early 2020.

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth statue
| Credit: Buckingham Palace

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During the call, they were also joined by sculptor Robert Hannaford to unveil a new statue of the monarch recently installed in the grounds of Government House.