UK

Queen to draw on experience for UN speech in New York

The Queen makes many speeches. Each one of them has an importance. But few of them could be described as genuinely significant.

For nearly 60 years she has performed the role of a constitutional monarch and put scarcely a foot wrong.

She has witnessed much - more, in fact, than any previous sovereign when you consider her worldwide travel.

But she has revealed little or nothing of her own conclusions about the state of the world.

That is the way she and the governments of the 16 countries of which she is head of state prefer it, to say nothing of the Commonwealth of 52 countries of which she is head, countries which, incidentally, between them represent nearly one third of the world's population.

But the very fact that she has been a constant presence on the world stage for nearly 60 years, and that she has such a broad mandate (if indeed that is the right term for someone who gained her position by succession rather than election) means that her views carry a particular resonance.

'Subtle speech'

In short, Queen Elizabeth is the most experienced head of state in the world, outlasting dozens of presidents and prime ministers.

From Eisenhower to Obama in the United States: Churchill to Cameron in the United Kingdom, she has known them all as they have come and gone. She, though, has remained.

That does not automatically mean that she is the possessor of any particular wisdom or special insights but, given that it is almost unprecedented for her to draw on the experience of her reign in a speech about world affairs, it does make her address to the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) more than usually interesting.

Image caption The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh spent nine days touring Canada

Buckingham Palace regards it as one of the most important speeches she has made in recent years.

The governments of all 16 "realms" of which she is Queen, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have all been consulted about what she should say, as indeed has the Commonwealth.

And I understand that the Queen herself has taken a more than usual hands-on interest in the speech.

She, after all, is the person who will have to stand in front of the diplomatic missions of the UN's 192 member nations.

She, more than anyone, knows that you cannot accept an invitation from the UN's secretary general to address the General Assembly (in her case for the first time since 1957) and not have something worthwhile to say.

No-one should suppose that the Queen is going to break the habits of her reign and deliver a political speech. She is not.

But she is expected to talk about leadership in the modern world and to offer a perspective on the role of the UN. It will be a subtle speech.

In some areas the underlying thrust of what she is trying to say may not be readily apparent, which perhaps will make it all the more intriguing for the diplomats - some of whom probably were not even born when she stepped on to the world stage as Queen in 1952.

But listen carefully perhaps they should. There will not be many occasions when this world body will be addressed by someone with anything like the experience of the small woman with the silver hair and large hat, who will step up to the podium of the General Assembly later today.

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