The Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II, has a very distinct and recognizable way of speaking. As the monarch of the United Kingdom and head of the Commonwealth for over 70 years, the Queen’s speeches and Christmas broadcasts have been heard by millions. But what are the key features and quirks of the Queen’s English?
The most noticeable feature of the Queen’s speech is that she speaks with a Received Pronunciation (RP) accent. RP is a standardized accent sometimes referred to as “BBC English” or “The King’s/Queen’s English.” It is the accent typically associated with upper class and royalty in the UK.
Some key features of Received Pronunciation include:
- Non-rhotic – The ‘r’ sounds after vowels are dropped, so ‘car’ sounds like ‘cah’
- Clearly enunciated vowels and consonants
- Neutral, non-regional accent
The Queen has spoken with a clear RP accent throughout her reign. This gives her speaking a formal, sophisticated, and educated tone befitting her status.
An especially noticeable feature of the Queen’s RP accent is her crisp and precise vowel sounds. Vowels are elongated and clearly pronounced. For example, she pronounces the word “masses” as “maaahsses” and “nation” as “naaaation.”
This elegant, elongated way of pronouncing vowels helps give the Queen’s voice a distinct sing-song quality. Her precision with vowels also reflects her meticulous and proper speaking style.
In addition to her accent, the Queen uses excellent grammar and precise word choices when she speaks. She speaks in formal complete sentences and uses proper conjugation and agreement.
For example, the Queen says “One is pleased to be here” rather than using the more casual contraction “I’m.” She employs the royal “we” rather than “I.” Her excellent command of grammar gives her speaking an erudite and refined air.
Distinct Speech Features
In addition to the Queen’s RP accent and proper grammar, she has some distinct quirks and tendencies in her speech patterns.
Steady Rhythm and Flow
The Queen speaks at a steady, measured pace. She does not rush her words or speak hurriedly. This gives her speech a smooth, consistent flow.
She tends to speak in even tones with little variation in pitch or emphasis. This steadiness gives her delivery a calm, assured quality.
“One” Instead of “I”
As mentioned, the Queen frequently uses “one” instead of saying “I.” For example, “One was glad to visit the children’s hospital.” This gives her speech a more detached, third-person perspective, maintaining royal distance.
The Queen uses very few hand gestures or other body language when she speaks publicly. She usually keeps her hands clasped together or resting on a podium/table. Her limited physical gestures keep the focus on her words.
At times when giving long speeches, the Queen will occasionally stutter or stammer briefly over certain words. This shows that even the most practiced public speakers sometimes falter. However, the Queen gracefully continues on without letting the stutters fluster her.
In addition to her delivery and accent, the actual structure of the Queen’s speeches is notable. Her annual Christmas broadcasts to the Commonwealth follow a familiar pattern that gives them a sense of tradition and continuity.
Opening Personal Anecdotes
The Queen often opens her Christmas speeches by commenting on personal events from her year or family milestones. She may mention details like the birth of a new grandchild or her travels abroad that year. This gives a personable, relatable touch before transitioning into more formal remarks.
Expression of Gratitude
An important component of her speeches is expressing gratitude to individuals and groups who have served the nation and Commonwealth in the last year. This includes thanking military service members, first responders, volunteers, public servants, and others. Showing appreciation for their service and sacrifice is characteristic of the Queen’s speeches.
Messages of Hope and Unity
Especially in times of hardship, the Queen emphasizes unifying themes like shared hopes, values, and perseverance. She brings up the goodwill shown by people coming together to help one another. Framing challenges as opportunities for growth and community is a hallmark of her uplifting rhetoric.
To close, it is tradition for the Queen to offer a blessing to the viewing audience. She wishes everyone a happy Christmas and peaceful, healthy New Year. This ties her speech together by ending on a warm, hopeful note.
Public Speaking Style Over the Years
While the Queen’s accent and precision have remained steady markers of her public speaking, some aspects of her delivery have evolved over her long reign.
When she was younger, the Queen spoke more quickly and with a higher pitch. As she gained experience, her delivery became slower and more measured. In recent years, her advanced age has noticeably slowed her speech again. But she maintains excellent poise and precision.
Impact and Legacy
Queen Elizabeth II’s distinct speaking style has had an enormous cultural impact during her long reign. Her annual Christmas broadcasts are a staple of the holiday season for millions of Commonwealth citizens. She has addressed Parliament yearly since 1952, becoming a reassuring constant presence as Prime Ministers have come and gone.
The Queen’s speeches have provided a sense of stability and continuity during periods of drastic social change over seven decades. Her comforting, familiar voice helps unify the people and reinforce shared national identity. She provides a nonpartisan voice of reason to smooth over political and social unrest.
Soft Power and Diplomacy
As head of state, the Queen represents the United Kingdom to the world. Her nuanced speech reinforces notions of British identity rooted in propriety, sophistication, and tradition. Her public remarks carefully employ soft power and diplomacy to strengthen foreign relations.
Recordings of the Queen’s voice have become cultural icons. Phrases like “God save the Queen” and her “one is…” speech quirks are immediately recognizable around the globe. Impressionists imitate her crisp pronunciation and cadence. She represents the archetype of the proper British matriarch.
Model for Successors
The Queen’s speeches have set a high standard that her successors strive to emulate. Modern members of the Royal Family such as Princes William and Harry work to match her excellent diction, posture, and formal word choice during public speeches. They have an iconic model to follow.
Queen Elizabeth II’s public speaking style is instantly recognizable and profoundly influential after a 70-year reign. Her Received Pronunciation accent, perfect posture, steady cadence, and skillful rhetoric reflect her refinement and diplomatic skill. She has provided a reassuring voice of tradition and hope to guide the Commonwealth through modern times. The Queen’s speeches will forever be associated with British identity, formality, and grace. She exemplifies eloquence under pressure.