The Queen Gives Commonwealth Speech About "Dedication to Duty" Ahead of Sussexes' Oprah Interview

The Queen, Prince Charles, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their priorities clear just eight hours before Harry and Meghan's bombshell interview.

With just hours to go before Oprah Winfrey’s must-see interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex airs, the Queen has delivered a passionate speech on "selfless dedication to duty."

In a pre-recorded address from St. George’s Hall at Windsor Castle, the monarch marked Commonwealth Day with words reflecting on the courage of the 2.4 billion people across the 54-country realm during the "testing times" of the past year.

"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," said the Head of the Commonwealth, who wore a dress and jacket of silk and wool cloque by Angela Kelly for the March 7 broadcast. "Whilst experiences of the last year have been different across the Commonwealth, stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication have been demonstrated in every Commonwealth nation and territory, notably by those working on the frontline who have been delivering healthcare and other public services in their communities."

britains queen elizabeth ii signs her annual commonwealth day message in st georges hall at windsor castle, windsor, west of london on march 5, 2021 photo by steve parsons  pool  afp photo by steve parsonspoolafp via getty images
STEVE PARSONSGetty Images

She continued, "We have also taken encouragement from remarkable advances in developing new vaccines and treatments ... The testing times experience by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy being connected to others."

As Prince Philip spends his third weekend under medical care—after returning to his King Edward VII Hospital suite on Friday following a heart-related procedure—the Queen wore a sapphire and diamond chrysanthemum brooch she first revealed in her 1947 honeymoon photos with the Duke of Edinburgh and in several anniversary portraits since. The touching nod to her husband was noticeable as she spoke about the challenges of feeling of isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"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," she said. "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—with conversations and communal gatherings, including Commonwealth meetings, conducted online, enabling people to stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues and counterparts, who they have not been able to meet in person."

The Commonwealth Day service—which titled its annual theme, "Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming"—usually takes place at Westminster Abbey but due to COVID-19 restrictions was turned into a special program by the BBC. The pre-taped production, which aired in the U.K. eight hours before Harry and Meghan’s CBS special in the U.S., included contributions from all senior royals, including Prince Charles and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

prince william and kate middleton
Kensington Palace

Prince William and Duchess Kate spoke with medical, charity, and voluntary staff from across the Commonwealth to hear about efforts being made to care for those within their communities. Prince Charles pre-recorded a message at Westminster Abbey to address the "universal devastation" caused by the pandemic, while Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall sat down with British broadcaster Clare Balding for a taped conversation about the importance of books and reading for children during a year of disrupted education.

The televised event appeared to be at clear odds with the Sussexes’ forthcoming CBS primetime special with Oprah, which will be the couple’s first time revealing the details behind their decision to prioritize family, safety and wellbeing over working roles within the institution of the monarchy.

In February, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex were forced to relinquish their remaining royal patronages after confirming to the Palace that they would continue to live independent lives. The couple’s decision also meant the end of their roles as President and Vice President (respectively) of the youth-focused Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.

A Buckingham Palace source tells BAZAAR.com, "The Commonwealth Day programme had always been scheduled on this date, however the timing will no doubt be a reminder to viewers where the priorities of the royal family lie."

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