By Jonny Dymond
This is the moment history stops; for a minute, an hour, for a day or a week; this is the moment history stops.
Across a life and reign, two moments from two very different eras illuminate the thread that bound the many decades together. At each a chair, a desk, a microphone, a speech. In each, that high-pitched voice, those clipped precise vowels, that slight hesitation about public speaking that would never quite seem to leave her.
She pledges that life to her audience around the world. She tells them: “I shall not have the strength to carry out this resolution alone.” And she asks for their company in the years to come.
The other speech is more formal. More than seven decades later, on the 75th anniversary of the day the war in Europe ended, she sits behind a desk, a picture of her father, the late King, in uniform, to her right.
Her hair – still pulled up – is white now. She wears a blue dress, two brooches, three strings of pearls. The many decades have left their mark, but her eyes still sparkle and her voice is still clear. The desk is practically empty but for the photo and to the right, in the foreground, a dark khaki cap, with a badge on its front.
“All had a part to play,” she says of a long-ago war.
The cap belonged to Second Subaltern Windsor, of the Auxiliary Territorial Service; the young Princess Elizabeth nagged her adoring father to allow her to join, so she could serve in uniform, even as the war that defined her – and for many decades her nation – drew to an end. Now, 75 years on, the cap has pride of place as she speaks to the nation on the anniversary of a great and heroic victory.