Prince Charles has said the coronavirus pandemic has reminded Britons that “heroes and heroines are all around us and take many forms” as “the very best of our country has been on conspicuous display”.
Charles and his wife Camilla recorded messages as part of the Royal British Legions annual Festival of Remembrance Service.
The Prince of Wales, who contracted coronavirus himself in March, compared the response of the British people during the Second World War to the ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic.
In a message pre-recorded at the Royal Albert Hall in London, he said: “Over these extraordinarily difficult past few months, almost every aspect of our national life has been disrupted. Many of us have been separated from those we love and, together, we continue to endure anxiety and grief not previously experienced in peacetime.
“Through all this, just as in wartime, the very best of our country has been on conspicuous display. We have reaffirmed our faith in each other and in our communities, and seen afresh that service to others underpins our society.
“We have been reminded that heroes and heroines are all around us and take many forms.”
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Charles, 71, remarked on the VE and VJ Day celebrations in the summer, which had to be drastically scaled back with continuing bans on large gatherings.
He added: “In this challenging year, we have perhaps come to realise that the freedoms for which they fought are more precious than we knew, and that the debt we owe them is even greater than we imagined.”
The heir to the throne also praised the efforts of people like Captain Sir Tom Moore, who inspired the nation when he committed to walking lengths of his garden to raise money for NHS Charities Together.
He was knighted by the Queen in a special private ceremony in July, in Windsor Castle.
Charles said: “The actions of veterans, Captain Sir Tom Moore and Private Joseph Hammond, or of Margaret Payne, and many others like them, offer a shining example of selfless commitment, and of how even those in their later years can achieve so much good by placing others ahead of themselves.”
He added: “Throughout this pandemic, our armed forces have stood side by side with our medical professionals, key workers and emergency services in the fight against coronavirus, whilst maintaining the defence of our nation at home and abroad.
“In many cases this has meant longer spells separated from their families, and extended periods of isolation in order to safeguard the integrity of vital elements of our Defence.
“To our armed forces today, and those who came before them; to those who made the ultimate sacrifice and never returned; and to our veterans on whose service our treasured liberty rests - we renew our heartfelt and eternal gratitude.
“Your example continues to inspire and guide us all.”
The ceremony was adapted by the Royal British Legion as the usual service could not go ahead, and focuses on “those who have put service and sacrifice before self”.
Camilla, 72, used her message to highlight military nurses, as 2020 was made the international year of nurses and midwives, marking 200 years since Florence Nightingale was born.
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She said: “Military nurses have worked alongside their NHS colleagues across the United Kingdom, using the skills learnt in conflict in the battle against COVID.
“You have been at the very epicentre of the nation’s response to the pandemic, providing a critical line of defence with compassion and dignity, and bringing hope and healing to so many. And you have done all this while being held at readiness for military deployment.
“For your service, we are deeply in your debt.”
The Duchess of Cornwall added: “Today, in our military nurses, we see the same unswerving determination to give the best possible medical care whenever and wherever you are called. Your service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.
“To each and every one of you - thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
The messages will form part of the service which shows on BBC One from 9pm on 7 November.
The annual service at the Cenotaph will take place on 8 November.