The Queen's speech at The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2023


Well done to each and every one of you – you are quite brilliant and I have, as ever, enormously enjoyed reading your entries.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a huge pleasure to welcome you to Buckingham Palace today to congratulate and thank all of you who have been part of this year’s Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition - and to celebrate the Competition’s 140th birthday.

Remarkably, the QCEC is the world’s oldest international writing competition for schools. For 14 decades, it has given young people the opportunity to express themselves on the issues that matter most, bringing communities across the Commonwealth closer together.

The Competition, as Gyles [Brandreth] has told us, was launched during the reign of Queen Victoria: herself a published author and a passionate lover of literature. We know from her diaries and letters that she was particularly fond of the works of many authors, including Jane Austen, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte and Lewis Carroll. Legend has it that, having admired “Alice in Wonderland”, the Queen wrote to Lewis Carroll to request first editions of any of his other books. By return of post she received a copy of his “Syllabus of Plane Algebraic Geometry”. Probably not what she was after!!

But back to the authors in this room! Well done to each and every one of you – you are quite brilliant and I have, as ever, enormously enjoyed reading your entries. Always remember that you are in impressive company - past entrants to this Competition have gone on to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, novelists, journalists and even, in one case, a Prime Minister! I shall be following all your achievements and adventures with the greatest possible interest.

The QCEC has a wonderful history. Yet this year’s topic, “A Youth-Powered Commonwealth”, reminds us that your future will be even better, as the next generation takes up the baton of using the written word to promote and unite our worldwide family.

In the last decade alone, more than 140,000 young people have entered the Competition. On my travels, I have been lucky enough to meet entrants in Ghana, St Vincent and the Grenadines, New Zealand, the Gambia, Malaysia, Rwanda, the United Kingdom and, earlier this month, Kenya. In a library in central Nairobi two weeks ago, I was delighted to be reunited with the 2021 Senior Winner, Kayla Bosire, whom I had last seen two years ago at the Awards Ceremony here at Buckingham Palace. In her winning essay, she wrote a strikingly beautiful paragraph that has stayed with me since, as it underlines the value of our Commonwealth and that of the QCEC:

“The Commonwealth, among other associations, had one goal: peace and security. And when they tossed their differences aside and joined hands - when they looked past one’s beliefs or the colour of their skin - they achieved it. Together. They advanced and progressed together”.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let us advance and progress together towards the next 140 years of the amazing Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition! 

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