The longest-serving British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away last week. The Queen leaves a complicated legacy that has touched many aspects of life in Britain and the world beyond. She became queen in 1952, when women with power were few and far between. For the next seven decades, she steered the monarchy into the modern era. While she served as a spiritual and moral leader for her nation and the British Commonwealth, she rarely opined about political issues. Perhaps her effort to stay "above" politics helped her serve as a unifying force in Great Britain, where she remained widely respected, admired, and loved until her death last week at age 96.

In this post, I want to remember one small, but significant, incident from the Queen's long life--the very first public speech she gave as a 14-year old princess on BBC's Children's Hour.

The year was 1940, and Britain had recently gone to war with Germany. France had fallen to the Nazis that June and the Battle of Britain--the air war where Germany attempted to bomb the Brits into submission--was in full swing. This period was known as Britain's darkest hour.

To escape the Blitz, many thousands of children were evacuated from London and the South to safer areas in the countryside. Over the course of the war, more than 1.5 million people--mostly children and their caregivers--were evacuated. Most stayed within Great Britain, but more than 20 thousand were evacuated overseas.

Two of those who left their home and went to the British countryside were the future Queen and her sister Margaret. They first went to Scotland for a few months, but by 1940, the royal sisters had re-located to Windsor Castle, where they spent most of the War.

In October 1940, in the context of the Blitz and the evacuations, Princess Elizabeth was tasked with addressing her fellow children. She spoke on a popular BBC program called Children's Hour and addressed young Britons in the UK and overseas. With her sister by her side, Princess Elizabeth delivered the following message--

Thousands of you in this country have had to leave your homes and be separated from your fathers and mothers. My sister Margaret Rose and I feel so much for you as we know from experience what it means to be away from those we love most of all. To you, living in new surroundings, we send a message of true sympathy and at the same time we would like to thank the kind people who have welcomed you to their homes in the country.

All of us children who are still at home think continually of our friends and relations who have gone overseas - who have traveled thousands of miles to find a wartime home and a kindly welcome in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States of America. My sister and I feel we know quite a lot about these countries. Our father and mother have so often talked to us of their visits to different parts of the world. So it is not difficult for us to picture the sort of life you are all leading, and to think of all the new sights you must be seeing, and the adventures you must be having.

But I am sure that you, too, are often thinking of the Old Country. I know you won't forget us; it is just because we are not forgetting you that I want, on behalf of all the children at home, to send you our love and best wishes - to you and to your kind hosts as well.

Before I finish, I can truthfully say to you all that we children at home are full of cheerfulness and courage. We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our own share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, everyone of us, that in the end all will be well; for G-d will care for us and give us victory and peace. And when peace comes, remember it will be for us, the children of today, to make the world of tomorrow a better and happier place....

Goodnight, and good luck to you all.

The purpose of the future Queen's speech was to encourage and steel the children of Great Britain during a difficult time for them personally and for their country. But her words still have meaning today. Worldwide, there are currently more than 89 millions refugees and internally displaced people, including more than 36 million children. These individuals live in great uncertainty, dreaming of home and relying on the kindness of their host communities.

The words of the young Princess remind us that in many ways, the issue is quite simple: People need help and we should help them. We should not use them as political pawns or demonize them in order to avoid the moral culpability that comes with a failure to act. Even a child can understand that people displaced by war, violence, and environmental catastrophe are not bad; they are us. Princess Elizabeth recognized as much in her first public speech, and we should remember and learn from her example.

Originally posted on the Asylumist: