Once upon a time, a speech by the Queen had the capacity to surprise. Only a handful of her trusted advisors would have been privy to its content prior to its delivery. Elizabeth, a Head of State who has thrived for decades by remaining above the political fray, didn’t use to indulge in extensive pre-briefing. Such tactics were the preserve of those who relied on the ballot box – not an accident of birth, for their position.
This status quo is yet another victim of Covid-19. As we settled down to watch the monarch momentarily delay an episode of the Antiques Roadshow, we had a sense of what she would say. One fifth of the words she uttered had already been shared with the broadcasters and Sunday newspapers. Intentionally or otherwise, criticism of the government’s response to the pandemic, and the election of a new Labour leader, had to share precious column inches with detailed coverage of how the Queen would attempt to rally a nation.