Three Queens, a Princess and a Countess on Tuesday joined forces to urge the end of the “heinous crime” of violence against women.
The royal show of force at Buckingham Palace saw the Queen Consort make her first major speech in her new position, asking assembled guests to use the “precious opportunity to speak up and galvanise action” to halt rape and domestic abuse.
Joined by Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of the Belgians, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess of Denmark and the Countess of Wessex for a drinks reception in the Picture Gallery of the palace, the Queen Consort set out her hopes for a future without gender-based violence.
The reception, held as part of the UN’s “16 days of activism against gender-based violence”, included around 300 guests - campaigners, politicians and celebrity ambassadors - to draw attention to the ongoing crisis.
Guests of honour included Olena Zelenska, the First Lady of the Ukraine, there to boost awareness about the scourge of sexual violence in conflict, experienced in her own country, she said, by the rape of women and girls at the hands of invading Russian soldiers.
The Queen Consort has made domestic violence on of her key campaigning issues since joining the Royal Family as the Duchess of Cornwall, and chose the occasion for her first major speech since the death of Elizabeth II.
“We are uniting today to confront, rightly, what has rightly been called a global pandemic of violence against women,” she said.
“Faced with such challenges, it can be hard to know what practical steps we can take to even begin to make a difference.
“Over the years, in my previous role, I had the privilege of meeting many survivors of rape and domestic abuse; and of sharing in the sorrow of people who had lost family members to violence.
“And again and again, I heard that two of the most powerful ways in which to help were to remember and to listen.
Listing a small selection of the women who have been killed “at the hands of a stranger, or of the person who should have loved them best”, she said: “We refuse to be desensitised by cold facts and figures and we resolve to keep the names and the memories of these women alive.”
She continued: “I have learnt from my conversations with these brave survivors that what they want, above all, is to be listened to and believed, to prevent the same thing happening to others.
“They know there is power in their stories and that, in the telling, they move from being the victims of their histories to the authors of their own futures.
“I have heard countless examples of the ways in which victims have become victors, using their experiences to hold out a hand to help others escape abuse.”
Addressing the women and small number of gentlemen assembled for drinks and canapes, the Queen told them: “Your vital work is…evidence that there is life after abuse.
“You are also evidence that we can have hope as we head towards our goal of ending violence against women and girls.
“Armed with that hope, let us press on. Let us not lose this precious opportunity to speak up and to galvanise action that will see the end of these heinous crimes forever.
“With determination and courage, we will succeed. Thank you.”
The Queen Consort spent around an hour at the reception, first introduced to members of overseas Royal Families who have also used their position to campaign to end violence against women.
Camilla has previously met Queen Rania and visited her Family and Child Centre in Jordan.
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark works through her Mary Foundation, which supports victims of domestic violence. The then-Duchess of Cambridge visited one shelter with her during a visit to Copenhagen earlier this year.
The Countess of Wessex has recently delivered powerful speeches about the use of sexual violence in war, working with the UN.
Camilla greeted each of her royal guests warmly with a kiss on each cheek, with Crown Princess Mary curtsying to her.
She went on to a line-up of politicians, including Home Secretary Suella Braverman who told Queen Camilla: “Thank you so much for your leadership on this. There’s so much to do.”
Introduced to Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Queen joked he was the “token man” at the event.
Yvette Cooper, shadow Home Secretary, told her the cause was “really important” and her work to raise awareness “appreciated”.
The line-up included “ambassadors” who campaign on the topic of violence against women, including Spice Girl Mel B, who has attended several of the Queen Consort’s events on the topic over the years, Fiona Bruce and Love Island’s Zara McDermott - a victim of revenge porn - as well as actress Hayley Atwell, broadcasters Emma Barnett, Yalda Hakim and Lorraine Kelly and Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Scotland.
The families of murdered women including Sabina Nessa and sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were among the guests, along with representatives of charities, campaigners and notable women including Jude Kelly, Baroness Helena Kennedy, Sarah Brown, Cherie Blair, and sisters-in-law Rachel and Carrie Johnson.
Lady Glenconner, a former lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret who has known the King and Queen Consort for years, said afterwards that it was a particularly important topic to keep discussing. She has spoken frankly about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her late husband.
“I’m so delighted that she’s brought this into the public domain,” she said. “The problem was people were so ashamed of it. People are talking about it more now.”
The lively reception saw the royal women mingle casually with guests, with Queen Rania and Princess Mary seen in deep conversation with one another as the Queen Consort made her way down makeshift ‘corridors’ of people to speak to as many as possible.
Camilla, leaning in to be heard in the noisy room, repeatedly thanked guests for their work, reminding them it was “so important” and promising in turn to keep it up.