Monarch urges Britons not to miss bigger picture at event for Women’s Institute centenary
Thu 24 Jan 2019
The Queen has called for “common ground” and “never losing sight of the bigger picture” in a speech to mark the centenary of the Sandringham Women’s Institute (WI), which is likely to be interpreted as a veiled reference to the toxic debate around Brexit.
She spoke of the virtues of “respecting” the other person’s point of view, as parliament remains deeply divided over the issue of Britain leaving the EU.
The Queen, who as head of state constitutionally remains publicly politically neutral, reflected in her speech on a year of change, during which it was clear the qualities of the WI endure, she said.
She added: “The continued emphasis on patience, friendship, a strong community-focus and considering the needs of others are as important today as they were when the group was founded all those years ago.
“Of course, every generation faces fresh challenges and opportunities. As we look for new answers in the modern age, I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture. To me, these approaches are timeless, and I commend them to everyone.”
It echoed her Christmas address when she touched on the same theme, telling the nation: “Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding.”
The Queen attends a meeting of the her local WI once a year at West Newton village hall as part of her winter stay on her Norfolk estate.
It is not the first time the Queen’s words have been interpreted politically with reference to a referendum. She made a rare intervention on the political stage when she expressed the hope that voters will “think very carefully about the future” before the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 while meeting a member of the public outside Crathie church near Balmoral.
She was also dragged into the EU referendum campaign in 2016 when the Sun reported she told former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg she believed the EU was heading in the wrong direction.
Her speech on Thursday was made as she joined members of her local WI in a live game of Pointless, hosted by Alexander Armstrong, and was on the winning team.
Armstrong, host of the BBC games show, who was this year’s guest speaker, described her as “our most distinguished viewer”.
The Queen’s team was victorious in a best-of-five match which finished three-one, he said, during which the Queen gave some answers herself and had “some deft, silky Pointless skills”.
The Queen joined the Sandringham branch of the WI in 1943 when she was aged 17 and still Princess Elizabeth.