The Prince of Wales: ‘After the suffering and the selflessness we are witnessing, we cannot allow ourselves to go back to how we were. This is a moment in history.’

In a personal message at a time of national crisis, HRH The Prince of Wales applauds how adversity is bringing out the best in people and urges us to never forget the crucial importance of Nature and farming.

At a time of great anxiety and loss, the courage and selflessness of all those involved in the medical and caring professions have been truly humbling. Beyond the walls of the hospitals, care homes, doctors’ surgeries and pharmacies, we have also seen a heart-warming burgeoning of remarkable kindness and concern for those in need across the country. Younger people shopping for older folk, some making regular telephone calls to those living alone, Church services recorded and emailed to parishioners and, of course, we have seen the very best use of technology — allowing us to keep working, but also to keep in touch through virtual parties, games, singing — and some of the funniest videos I have seen for a long time! In such testing times, it is reassuring to see that adversity is bringing out the very best in people.

“Food does not happen by magic. If the past few weeks have proved anything, it is that we cannot take it for granted”

What this national crisis has also brought home — dare I say it — is how much we rely on our agricultural community and all those in the food supply chain, from field to fork. The retailers have been doing an outstanding job responding to the unprecedented pressures, and so has the entire supply chain. The delivery drivers, shelf-stackers and all the others serving shoppers are providing an immensely important service in this time of great need.

Of course, it all begins with our farmers. When was the last time anyone gave the availability of a bottle of milk, or a loaf of bread, or fresh vegetables a second thought? Suddenly, these things are precious and valued. And this is how it always should be.

Food does not happen by magic. If the past few weeks have proved anything, it is that we cannot take it for granted. In this country, there are 80,000 farmers producing our food — from the Fells of Cumbria to the arable and vegetable lands of East Anglia; from the Welsh Mountains to the Scottish fishing villages; from the dairy fields of Cornwall and Northern Ireland to the orchards of Kent. Day in and day out, they are working to produce food — for us. And we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. But they cannot do it alone.

Now we need to rediscover that great movement of the Second World War — the Land Army (this time with men as well as women!) — and support the Government’s ‘Pick for Britain’ campaign, with as many people as possible stepping up and going into the fields to see our harvest of vegetables and fruit safely gathered. The need is huge and, in some cases, urgent, as the spring vegetables are ready for picking.

“I sense that more people, be they in cities or the countryside, are noticing and appreciating Nature in a way they had not before”

Through the work of my Prince’s Trust and Youth United, for instance, I know just how much young people, in particular, want to play their part and make a difference at this time of national need. With A Levels, GCSEs, many apprenticeships, college and university exams necessarily, but frustratingly abandoned, the structure of life has significantly changed for so many. Could spare time and capacity, thus released, be used to help feed the Nation instead?

Meanwhile, one of the most encouraging developments I have heard of during these past few difficult weeks has been the growth of local food-delivery services, often sourcing locally produced food — vegetables, eggs, milk, meat, juice, homemade pies and cheese. With low food miles and simple, short supply chains, these initiatives are reminding us how things could be and they are serving to bind communities ever closer together, too.

At the same time, I sense that more people, be they in cities or the countryside, are noticing and appreciating Nature in a way they had not before — they are alive to the beauty of the wildflowers and the first glorious delicate green as the trees start to unfurl their leaves; of birdsong and the wonderful array of butterflies and bees that are suddenly bursting into hyperactivity.

“We must learn some lessons: of the crucial importance of Nature to our wellbeing and to our very existence; of the power of localisation; and simply of a kinder way of being”

When we come out of this pandemic, as we surely will, it seems to me that we must learn some lessons: of the crucial importance of Nature to our wellbeing and to our very existence; of the power of localisation; and simply of a kinder way of being. After the suffering and the selflessness we are witnessing, we cannot allow ourselves to go back to how we were. This is a moment in history.

We must also remember that, beyond the huge challenges of this pandemic, further and equally dangerous issues continue to loom. Let us all therefore pledge ourselves to ‘building back better’ and not lose sight of probably the greatest threat-multiplier of them all: global warming and its most obvious symptom, climate change. Let us recalibrate our lives, working closely together to tackle all these challenges. Let us commit to making this precious world a truly better place.


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