In a rare display of affection, the Queen has paid tribute to her “dear late husband”, the Duke of Edinburgh, in a pre-recorded video message played to world leaders arriving at a Cop26 welcome reception.
The monarch said she was proud of the important role Prince Philip – who died in April, aged 99 – played in encouraging people to look after the natural world, and that she “could not be more proud” of her son, the Prince of Wales, and grandson, the Duke of Cambridge, who have continued his work.
She also issued a call to action for presidents and prime ministers attending the UN climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, urging them to work together in “common cause” to tackle climate change and “solve the most insurmountable problems”.
The 95-year-old was scheduled to attend the event alongside other senior members of the royal family, but was forced to pull out upon receiving advice from doctors to rest.
In an apparent nod to her own mortality, Queen Elizabeth II said in the message not everyone would benefit from the leaders’ actions – as “none of us live forever” – but that any commitment to confront the climate emergency would certainly benefit the lives of “our children’s children”.
Prince Charles, his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were at the event, and listened to the message, which Buckingham Palace said was recorded on Friday at Windsor Castle.
Images of the Queen driving around her Windsor estate were released earlier on Monday, just three days after doctors advised her to rest and only carry out light duties. She is known to drive to take her Corgi dogs out for walks in the area.
During the one-and-a-half-minute video message, the head of state encouraged politicians to take advantage of the opportunity to create “a safer, stabler future for our people and for the planet on which we depend”.
“None of us underestimates the challenges ahead: but history has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope. Working side by side, we have the ability to solve the most insurmountable problems and to triumph over the greatest of adversities,” she said.
Appealing to their sense of legacy, the Queen also took a moment to stress that, if successful, leaders involved in making the “difficult” decisions would be written about “in history books yet to be printed” and described as the people “who did not pass up the opportunity”.
She added: “That you left this conference as a community of nations with a determination, a desire, and a plan, to address the impact of climate change; and to recognise that the time for words has now moved to the time for action.”
It follows an incident last month in which the Queen was heard expressing annoyance at world leaders for both failing to commit to attending Cop26, and for talking more about climate change than acting on it.
In conversation with her daughter-in-law, Camilla, and Elin Jones, presiding officer of Wales’ Parliament, the monarch was filmed by a Daily Mail journalist saying she was “irritated” by people who “talk but don’t do”.
Prince Philip was a celebrated environmentalist, and enjoyed a stint as president of the WWF – World Wildlife Fund – from 1981 to 1996.
He also famously drove an eco-friendly taxi around the streets of London, decades before green vehicles were used more widely.
In her message, the Queen recalled a time “in 1969” when Philip told an academic gathering that “if the world pollution situation is not critical at the moment, it is as certain as anything can be that the situation will become increasingly intolerable within a very short time”.
It was then that she paid tribute to the work of not just her late husband, but of her son, Charles, and grandson, Prince William, too.
“It is a source of great pride to me that the leading role my husband played in encouraging people to protect our fragile planet, lives on through the work of our eldest son Charles and his eldest son William,” she said.
“I could not be more proud of them.”