Some in the media tried to trivialise, distort and politicise the Queen’s speech in Germany this week. They wrongly thought she was saying the UK has to stay in the EU. This was a curious interpretation of one sentence in a speech which did not mention the European Union by name, and which certainly did not break the rule of the monarch staying out of current political controversies at home.
By doing this the media missed a much more significant feature of the Queen’s speech. Far from being a eulogy to the EU it was a short serious analysis of the state of Anglo-German relations based on an 800 year perspective. I thought it was remarkable for how honest, tough and balanced it was.
The speech began by reminding her audience that we are currently commemorating events in the Great War in 1915, and marking the 70 th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. To reinforce the point she was making she told them of Magna Carta and England’s early march to democracy, going on to say
“Tomorrow I shall visit St Paul’s Church where the first freely elected legislature in Germany met in 1848. The Frankfurt Parliament turned out to be a false dawn; it took another century and the loss of the most terrible wars in history to set Germany on the path to democracy”
Here was the Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland telling our German neighbours that we are glad we are now friends, that democracy is the ally of peace, and that Germany only got onto the path of democracy after 1945. The UK as the Queen reminded her audience has been involved in European affairs, and had to fight two dreadful wars which none of us wish to see repeated.
To underline the sombre message more she told of royal visits to the sites of Jewish concentration camps, and of her own immediate visit to Bergen Belsen.
I would say this was a profound and brave speech to make in the circumstances, backed by a visit whose very steps wished both to highlight the past and point to the peace we have now created on the back of a new relationship with a more democratic Germany. She spoke of reconciliation.
It would be good sometimes if the media tried to report what is interesting in what was said, instead of trying to impose their own bizarre agenda onto words that mean something else. If the Queen had been helping the stay in campaign she would have visited a series of sites built with EU money, praised the work of the EU in her text, and directly linked the EU to the peace in Europe which has been created by other forces and means. Now that would have been a story,because that would have been unwarranted interference in politics by a Queen who is usually an impeccable judge of where she should stay silent.