The King's speech at Mansion House


Thew King and Queen at Mansion House

I have often described the United Kingdom as a “community of communities”; an island nation in which our shared values are the force which holds us together.

Lord Mayor, Aldermen of the City of London,

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of my wife and myself, I want to thank you for your most warm and generous welcome to the City this evening. Lest there be any anxious eyes cast around this august gathering, let me begin by reassuring you that it is my aim to depart this evening with fond memories of friendships made and renewed, but not the grant of tunnage and poundage afforded to my Plantagenet forebears!

I would, however, like to express my own particular thanks for City traditions which have been maintained across the ages; notably, as you mentioned, Lord Mayor, the City Livery’s production of special and precious items in support of Coronations. These include the magnificent Anointing Screen and Coronation Cup, which your guests have an opportunity to see in the equally magnificent setting of Mansion House this evening.

Since my Accession last year, and in preparation for our Coronation earlier this year, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on what it is that makes this nation of ours so special – for every generation lives with its own set of hopes and fears, as if caught in a perpetual tussle between optimism and pessimism, promise and peril. I have often described the United Kingdom as a “community of communities”; an island nation in which our shared values are the force which holds us together, reminding us that there is far, far more that unites us than divides us. Yet we are living in something of a watershed age. For example, will the coming of artificial intelligence bring with it an era of ever- increasing material plenty and leisure? Or will it fundamentally change and perhaps even consume jobs and other opportunities before capturing and then surpassing our very minds themselves? After decades of debate, our television screens - or, increasingly, mobile phone screens - confront us each day with the stark realities of climate change. But are devastating scenes of communities scarred by fire and flood – not to mention the migration of people fleeing those terrifying phenomena – enough to persuade us to take the action that is needed; to make the sacrifices needed to secure our planet for generations yet unborn? Is our society, with its deep and ancient roots - nurtured and enriched by our welcome of new citizens from the four corners of the globe since the dawn of our history - up to the challenges and ready to meet them, head on?

I believe so. Because at such a juncture in our national life, there are special strengths which we can summon to help us – deep wells on which we can draw, filled not just with our shared histories and experiences, but with literally countless individual stories too; a mix of memories past and ambitions future, to help give ourselves a sense of perspective.

From these wells we can raise hope, shared purpose and, above all, a genuine togetherness that will see us through good times and bad. My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, the gifts these wells bestow are of high and enduring worth.

First, there is the deep well of civility and tolerance, on which our political life and wider national conversation depend, suffused with our sense of fairness and our devotion to the rule of law. We live in an age where, across the demographic spectrum, education and lived experience have schooled us in our rights; what we know we can expect from one another and how to go about securing it. The words “I know my rights” are wholly familiar – and often true. But have we succeeded in equal measure in schooling ourselves, and our communities, in the importance of our responsibilities towards one another? Do we pause, instinctively and unerringly, before speaking or acting to ensure we are affording equal weight to both sides of the balance? Our society would be a kinder and gentler place for it.

Next, there is the breathing space we afford one another, leaving us able to think and speak freely. This well carries the politeness and respect we owe to one another; our willingness to put others first and treat them as we would wish them to treat us. To listen to their views and, if we do not agree, to remind ourselves to engage in a way which is passionate, but not pugnacious. This includes the practice of our religious faiths, in freedom and mutual understanding. One of my first acts as Sovereign, a little over a year ago, was to open the doors of Buckingham Palace to the leaders of the major Faiths represented across these islands; to welcome them, with respect and indeed love, and to re-dedicate my life to protecting the space for Faith itself within our shores. Such understanding, both at home and overseas, is never more vital than at times of international turmoil and heartbreaking loss of life.

Third, the duty of care we feel for others in sickness or misfortune. We strive to be a compassionate people who, in the best and worst of times, seek instinctively to relieve the suffering of others – those we love, those we like and, most powerfully of all, the stranger we have never met, but to whom we extend our hand and our help.

Fourth, there is the cataract of science, innovation and scholarship which flows into our laboratories and libraries, our lecture halls and our seminar rooms and beyond into our production lines and our knowledge industries. More and more it flows into that greatest battle of all, which I mentioned a few moments ago – and to which the City is responding admirably, with characteristic innovation and flair – the combatting and mitigation of global warming and climate change.

And fifth, the cherished well from which the sound of laughter can be heard – the healing well filled with a sense of humour laced with an invigorating dash of self-irony. This well flows liberally into all the others. The British sense of humour is world-renowned. It is not what we do. It is who we are. Our ability to laugh at ourselves is one of our great national characteristics. Just as well, you may say, given some of the vicissitudes I have faced with frustratingly failing fountain pens this past year!

What a legacy, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, these wells represent. The bounty they give us, the contagious inspiration they bring to our everyday lives is a daily fillip, as is the sense of purpose they instil as we face what is to come; a shining asset we all share.

These flows, the gifts of the wells, also give life to the institutions we have created to bring us health and social care, learning and innovation, industry and enterprise, safety and justice and our national defence. We rely on that sense of public service which takes so many far beyond the call of duty in often difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances. The institutions which rely on their labour and loyalty also deserve the warmth of our appreciation and not the chill, demotivating scapegoating into which criticism can all too easily decay.

The instinct to co-operate wherever and whenever possible is deep within us. Even in the most fractious times – when disagreements are polished, paraded and asserted – there is in our land a kind of muscle-memory that it does not have to be like this; that the temptation to turn ourselves into a shouting or recriminatory society must be resisted, or at least heavily mitigated whenever possible, especially in the digital sphere where civilised debate too often gives way to rancour and acrimony.

These instincts come together in perhaps the deepest of all our reservoirs – the one that irrigates our crucial sense of responsibility, both individual and collective – that enables us to fulfil our duties as good citizens who understand, without having to write down or formalise them, the decencies on which our institutions and our constitution depend, as well as our relationships, one to another.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, these are virtues for all seasons.

They carry our hopes, our kindness and our duties to one another. They make us what we are and shape what we aspire to be when moving over the cusp of what is to become of us, as we live and breathe on these islands that we share, cherish and, crucially, sustain.

As King – and as a father and a grandfather – I commend them to you.

And, on behalf of my wife and myself, let me conclude by renewing our heartfelt thanks for the warmth and generosity of your welcome this evening, and by proposing a toast to The Lord Mayor and the City of London Corporation.

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