The British went to bed proud on Sunday night. We Americans woke up sad, again, on Monday.
Why? Because of the stark, contrasting coronavirus appearances, over the weekend, by President Trump and Queen Elizabeth II. Trump in his repetitive daily briefing; Elizabeth in a rare public address.
One was full of blame, accusations, impatience, falsehoods and bravado. The other was full of gratitude, praise and encouragement.
The Queen’s address was broadcast just hours before Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalized with COVID-19 and less than a week after her son, the Prince of Wales, finished quarantine following his own coronavirus diagnosis.
Elizabeth II was most likely channeling Elizabeth I, who in 1588 rode to be with her troops and spoke of her love for them and her country while facing the terrifying invasion of the Spanish Armada.
“Let tyrants fear,” the Tudor monarch proclaimed. “I am come amongst you…in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust.”
That Queen was indeed willing to die with, by and for her countrymen.
Likewise, Elizabeth II, who addressed a fearful nation being invaded by a new invisible enemy, assured not just her British subjects, but even a global audience, promising “we will get through this.”
“Together we will tackle this disease,” she said. “We will succeed and that success will belong to everyone of us.”
She reminded listeners of her first radio broadcast, during the 1940 blitz, when she and her sister, Princess Margaret, spoke reassuringly to child evacuees from Windsor Castle.
The Queen’s Sunday’s coronavirus address was also recorded at Windsor castle, with a single cameraman wearing protective equipment. Technical staff worked from another room.
The reaction to her speech “was close to rapturous, across the political spectrum” according to British media.
“What an inspiring, steadying, reassuring address by the Queen. Not a false note,” tweeted the grandson of Winston Churchill.
Actually, Sir Winston Churchill himself recognized royal character in Elizabeth at the age of two. His assessment: “She has an air of authority and reflectiveness astonishing in an infant.”
That character shined through again, at age 92, in her Sunday speech.
It’s hard to imagine the Queen’s popularity soaring higher than the 90% approval she received during her Diamond Jubilee. But after her Sunday address, it is possible.
By contrast, it’s not hard to imagine Trump’s approval declining. In fact, it already has.
The British monarch’s reassuring speech is the real antidote to coronavirus.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.