The attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, commonly known as 9/11, led to an outpouring of grief across the world.
This was especially the case in the United Kingdom, where British acts of solidarity with the United States were led by Her Majesty the Queen herself.
On the 13th September 2001, the Queen unprecedentedly directed her Coldstream Guards to play The Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the US, during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace as a tribute to the thousands who had lost their lives in the atrocity just days before.
This was the first time in history that the Guards had played a national anthem other than God Save the Queen.
For Royal Historian and founder of the British Monarchist Society, Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills, this typified the Queen’s deeply empathetic character.
“She was not just performing a simple duty.” Mace-Archer-Mills said. “She was a deeply caring person, and realised that the country needed to honour those people who were lost”.
Many of the 5,000 Americans who had come to watch the display broke down in tears and placed their hands over their hearts in a salute.
At first, the anthem was heard in a hushed silence and then slowly many started singing until the words of The Star Spangled Banner echoed across Green Park.
As the final notes of the anthem faded away, the musical tribute from the Guards was greeted by applause before a two-minute silence was observed.
The following day, the Queen once again broke with precedent, organising and attending a memorial service at St. Paul’s cathedral.
Here, hundreds of dignitaries including Prince Phillip, Prime Minister Tony Blair, and U.S. Ambassador William Farish packed inside the Cathedral with a 2,600 strong congregation to recognise the victims.
Mace-Archer-Mills said, “What we saw at St. Paul’s was truly extraordinary”.
“The Queen never sang national anthems, not even her own, but he she broke rank and sang the Star Spangled Banner”, explained Mace-Archer-Mills.
“You could even see her give her eye a little wipe”.
The actions of the Queen in those tumultuous and disorientating days that followed the collapse of the Twin Towers reverberated across every corner of America.
“It showed parts of the US that weren’t directly touched by 9/11 that there is a very special union between the United States and the United Kingdom’s head of state,” said Mace-Archer-Mills.
Rather than merely acting solemnly as head of state, following 9/11 the Queen harnessed the powers of the crown to show to Americans that she and her subjects cared deeply about them.
For Mace-Archer-Mills, this was something that only the Queen could do.
“President Bush could run the task force, but it was the extra support he received from Her Majesty which provided the people of the United States with an embrace”.
(Photo credit: NARA & DVIDS PUBLIC DOMAIN ARCHIVE )