Something deep in the Queen's heart
It was 1943, in the midst of the Second World War. The Germans had restarted their savage bombing campaign and had begun deliberately targeting Buckingham Palace. The King and Queen were working in the dirty, unheated palace, where the wind whistled through boarded up windows and a black line painted around their baths showed just how little water was allowed to be drawn. Everyone was losing family members to the war. The previous August the King's brother had been killed in an airplane crash while viewing air installations.
The King and Queen with bombed-out residents of London during the Second World War, September 11th 1940. They visited bombed-out cities, hospitals, schools and churches around Britain, and toured army, navy and air bases, trying to sustain the morale of their "incredibly gallant country".
The King and Queen were in the palace, preparing to go down to the air raid shelter when there was "the noise of aircraft diving at great speed , and then the scream of a bomb. . .we all ducked like lightning into the corridor. There was another tremendous explosion. . ." (Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, by William Shawcross). Even Churchill did not know how close they had come to death, and their near escape was not made public until after the war ended.
In this chaotic and dangerous world the Queen was asked to give radio broadcasts, and she did, but she found writing them difficult. However, on April 11th 1943, she broadcast to British women -
"She did not have a special message but there was something deep in her heart that she knew that they should be told - 'and probably I am the best person to do it.' Sometimes, after reading a book that inspired hope and courage, she continued, 'we have wished that, though we are strangers to him, we could meet the author and tell him how much we admire his work, and how grateful we are for it.' In the same way,'I would like to meet you, this Sunday night. For you, though you may not realise it, have done work as great as any book that ever was written; you too, in these years of tragedy and glory, of crushing sorrow and splendid achievement, have earned the gratitude and admiration of all mankind; and I am sure that every man who is doing his man's share in the grim task of winning this war, would agree that it is high time that someone told you so.'
"Women might feel that she was exaggerating, and ask what they had done compared with what their men had endured 'dodging submarines in the Atlantic or chasing Rommel across Africa'. But they had given all that was good in themselves to the same cause, 'our cause, the cause of Right against Wrong'. Women's work was 'just as valuable, just as much war-work as that which is done by the bravest soldier, sailor or airman who actually meets the enemy in battle'.'And have you not met that enemy too? You have endured his bombs; you have helped put out the fires he has kindled in our homes; you have tended those he has maimed; brought strength to those he has bereaved. . .in a hundred ways you have filled the places of the men who have gone away to fight; . . .Many there are whose homes have been shattered by the fire of the enemy. The dwellings can be rebuilt, but nothing can restore the family circle if a dear one has gone for-ever from it. A firm faith in reunion beyond this world of space and time, and a fortitude born of the resolve to do one's duty and carry on to the end, are true consolations. I pray they may not be denied to all who suffer & mourn.'
"The Queen went on to say that. . .'women as home-makers had a great part to play in rebuilding family life as soon as the war ended, but it should be done on the strength of spiritual life'. If'the years to come are to see some real spiritual recovery, the women of our Nation must be deeply concerned with Religion, and our homes the very place where it should start; it is the creative and dynamic power of Christianity which can help us to carry the moral responsibilities which history is placing upon our shoulders. If our homes can be truly Christian, then the influence of that spirit will assuredly spread like leaven through all the aspects of our common life, industrial, social and political.'" (Queen Elizabeth)
Her voice was 'clear and captivating', and many were moved. However, "Later in the year, when her brother David asked her to speak to a women's Christian group, she replied, 'Honestly darling I don't feel very holy at the moment, & couldn't think of a word to say to them. Just because I said last spring that I believed in Christianity and home life, I am considered practically a mother superior and clergymen raise their hats to me with a sort of special gusto!'"
Followed as it is by her down-to-earth sense of humour, isn't there something poignant and bracing in the Queen's hopes for the future?
I hope you will not think it self-serving of me to say that the ideals which moved the Queen and her gallant country are described in our book. It may be of interest to you.