'Our streets are not empty': The Queen makes moving speech marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day

By Zach Harper

The Queen has made a moving speech in honour of the 75th anniversary of VE Day, which marked the end of World War II in Europe.

Speaking from Windsor Castle for the second time in just over a month, Her Majesty honoured the sacrifices made by soldiers in the United Kingdom and across the Commonwealth during the Second World War. She made her remarks at 9 p.m. BST, the exact same time her father, the late King George VI, spoke to announce Germany's surrender on May 8, 1945.

Since the Queen spent much of the war at Windsor Castle, her remarks likely took on even more meaning for her this year.

"The war had been a total war; it had affected everyone and no one was immune from its impact," she said. "Whether it be the men and women called up to serve, families separated from each other or people asked to take up new roles and skills to support the war effort, all had a part to play."

The Queen spoke of the importance of perseverance throughout the war, and also remembered her own happiness – and that of her late sister, Princess Margaret – when the war ended. Her Majesty was 19 years old at the time, while Margaret was nearly 15. In a now famous moment in history, the Queen – who was then Princess Elizabeth – joined her sister, the King, the Queen Mother and late former U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill on the Buckingham Palace balcony to celebrate the end of the war.

"As I now reflect on my father's words and the joyous celebrations, which some of us experienced first-hand, I am thankful for the strength and courage that the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and all our allies displayed," she continued. "The wartime generation knew that the best way to honour those who did not come back from the war was to ensure that it didn't happen again. The greatest tribute to their sacrifice is that countries who were once sworn enemies are now friends, working side-by-side for the peace, health and prosperity of us all."

The Queen (left, then Princess Elizabeth) celebrates VE Day in 1945 with the Queen Mother, Winston Churchill, George VI and Princess Margaret. Photo: © Reg Speller/Getty Images

Her Majesty also acknowledged the difficulties the coronavirus has posed to marking this year's anniversary. But she said her experiences during the war had taught her the world will pull through this crisis. She also took the time to praise what people throughout the globe have done to fight COVID-19 so far this year.

"Today it may seem hard that we cannot mark this special anniversary as we would wish," she said. "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 recognize and admire.

This is the Queen's second address to the Commonwealth in just over a month. She made a special broadcast on April 5 in which she spoke about the coronavirus and the difficult fight ahead, giving royal watchers and people worldwide a much-needed message of hope as the virus continued to spread."Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it," she said then.

Since then, some countries have reopened businesses and some are starting to talk about cautiously opening up more of economic life as they see a reduction in cases. There still remains a long fight ahead, but as the Queen has told us twice now, if we stay the course, we can best this challenge.

Here is the full text of Her Majesty's speech:

"I speak to you today at the same hour as my father did, exactly 75 years ago. His message then was a salute to the men and women at home and abroad who had sacrificed and so much in pursuit of what he rightly called 'a great deliverance.'

"The war had been a total war; it had affected everyone and no one was immune from its impact. Whether it be the men and women called up to serve, families separated from each other or people asked to take up new roles and skills to support the war effort, all had a part to play.

"At the start, the outlook seemed bleak, the end distant, the outcome uncertain. But we kept faith that the cause was right – and this belief, as my father noted in his broadcast, carried us through. Never give up, never despair – that was the message of VE Day.

"I vividly remember the jubilant scenes my sister and I witnessed with our parents and Winston Churchill from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The sense of joy in the crowds who gathered outside and across the country was profound, though while we celebrated the victory in Europe, we knew there would be further sacrifice.

"It was not until August that fighting in the Far East ceased and the war finally ended. Many people laid down their lives in that terrible conflict. They fought so we could live in peace, at home and abroad. They died so we could live as free people, in a world of free nations. They risked all so our families and neighbourhoods could be safe. We should and will remember them.

"As I now reflect on my father's words and the joyous celebrations, which some of us experienced first-hand, I am thankful for the strength and courage that the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and all our allies displayed. The wartime generation knew that the best way to honour those who did not come back from the war was to ensure that it didn't happen again. The greatest tribute to their sacrifice is that countries who were once sworn enemies are now friends, working side-by-side for the peace, health and prosperity of us all.

"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 recognize and admire.

"I send my warmest good wishes to you all."

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