The queen usually attends the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey each year, but this year has been cancelled for the first time in nearly half a century due to COVID-19.
In her speech on Sunday, the queen addressed the ongoing pandemic and highlighted how the Commonwealth had come together in such a different time.
“Whilst experiences of the last year have been different across the Commonwealth, stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication to duty have been demonstrated in every Commonwealth nation and territory, notably by those working on the frontline, who have been delivering healthcare and other public services in their communities,” the Queen said.
“We have also taken encouragement from remarkable advances in developing new vaccines and treatments. The testing times experienced by so many have led to a deeper appreciation of the mutual support and spiritual sustenance we enjoy by being connected to others,” she continued.
The Queen addressed how “the need to maintain greater physical distance, or to live and work largely in isolation, has, for many people across the Commonwealth, been an unusual experience.”
“In our everyday lives, we have had to become more accustomed to connecting and communicating via innovative technology – which has been new to some of us – with conversations and communal gatherings, including Commonwealth meetings, conducted online, enabling people to stay in touch with friends, family, colleagues and counterparts, who they have not been able to meet in person,” she said.
“Increasingly we have found ourselves able to enjoy such communication, as it offers an immediacy that transcends boundaries or division, helping any sense of distance to disappear.”
She concluded her speech with a message of unity. “We have all continued to appreciate the support, breadth of experiences and knowledge that working together brings, and I hope that we shall maintain this renewed sense of closeness and community,” she said.
“Looking forward, relationships with others across the Commonwealth will remain important as we strive to deliver a common future that is sustainable and more secure, so that the nations and neighborhoods, in which we live wherever they are located, become healthier and happier places for all.”
Other members from the royal family, including Prince Charles, Prince William, Kate Middleton and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, also participated in the BBC special to mark Commonwealth Day, which celebrates the 54 member states, almost all of which are former territories of the British Empire.
Commonwealth Day 2020 marked Meghan and Harry's last official appearance as senior members of the royal family. The couple reunited with Queen Elizabeth, William, Kate, Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, for the occasion last year.
This year, fans will see Meghan and Harry on screen, as Oprah With Meghan and Harry: A CBS Primetime Special airs in the U.S.
In an explosive promo for the special, Oprah point-blank asks Meghan if there was "a breaking point" that led to the couple stepping back from the royal family in January 2020. While Meghan's answer is not shown, Harry does say his biggest concern was "history repeating itself," referencing his late mother, Princess Diana's, highly publicized struggles with the royal family.