Queen Consort Camilla was previously fond of giving short speeches at various charity events, but in the two months since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, she refrained from stepping to the lectern. But on Thursday, Camilla gave her first speech as queen consort while presenting the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Prize, and in the speech, she honored the late queen—and another iconic monarch.
“I cannot begin without paying tribute to my dear mother-in-law, Her late Majesty, who is much in our thoughts today and who is so greatly missed by us all,” she said, according to the BBC. “Over the past few months, my husband and I have drawn immense comfort from the messages of condolence that we have received, and continue to receive, from the four corners of the world.”
She also mentioned a famous quotation from Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned from 1558 to 1603 and was beloved by her people, drawing a comparison between the two Elizabeths. “It was on this date, 17th November, that Queen Elizabeth I came to the throne, in 1558,” Camilla said. “She once said of herself that, while she was aware of the merits of the monarchs who had preceded her, ‘You never had any that will love you better.’ A description that might just as well apply to Queen Elizabeth II and her enduring love for the Commonwealth.”
Camilla gave her speech in a palace stateroom, where she was joined by the essay winners along with representatives from the Royal Commonwealth Society, including singers Alexandra Burke and Geri Horner, formerly of the Spice Girls. In 2022, the essay competition saw 26,000 entries from across the 56 Commonwealth countries. From those entries, two winners and two runners-up were chosen. Senior winner Sawooly Li, junior winner Madeleine Wood, runner-ups Amaal Fawzi and Maulika Pandey all posed with Camilla during the ceremony.
In her speech, Camilla also praised Nelson Mandela, the former president of Commonwealth nation South Africa. “Mandela was a great writer. He was also described as ‘a man of the Commonwealth,’ famously saying, on entering Marlborough House, ‘the Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity.’ The Commonwealth, like writing, touches the whole world,” she said. “I think, therefore, it is now time to hear how these connections have been celebrated by our outstanding winners. To end with another quote from Nelson Mandela: ‘A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.’”
In October, a source close to Camilla told the Telegraph that the new queen consort would reduce the number of engagements where she delivered speeches, focusing instead on the events where her remarks can make the most impact, a shift inspired by the late queen.
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