The Queen shares rare old photographs as she awards NHS with the ultimate honour

The Queen, Elizabeth II
(Image credit: Getty)

The Queen has shared some rare personal photographs as she awards the NHS with the ultimate honour with a handwritten note expressing her 'heartfelt appreciation'.

  • The Queen has awarded the NHS with the prestigious George's Cross - an award originally set up by her father King George VI.
  • Her Majesty took the time to write a handwritten note and shared some rare photographs to highlight her 'heartfelt appreciation' for all the national health service does.
  • This royal news (opens in new tab) comes as the Queen gifts Kate Middleton a special new title (opens in new tab).

The Queen (opens in new tab) has commended the NHS for providing more than seven decades of support to UK residents and has awarded it the prestigious George Cross - the country's highest award for non-military courage.

It comes after her Majesty gave a touching gift to the staff (opens in new tab) who treated her husband Prince Philip before he passed away (opens in new tab) earlier this year, aged 99.

Amid the world's ongoing Coronavirus health pandemic the monarch has taken it upon herself to award the National Health Service - and all its staff past and present - with this great honour.

The Queen, NHS staff

In doing so, the Queen shared some of her own personal photographs taken from back in the day when she met up with doctors and nurses and she accompanied the photographs with a hand-written note in support of the award which reads, 'It is with great pleasure, on behalf of a grateful nation, that I award the George Cross to the National Health Services of the United Kingdom. This award recognises all NHS staff, past and present, across all disciplines and all four nations.'

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The personal note continued, 'Over more than seven decades, and especially in recent times, you have supported the people of our country with courage, compassion, and dedication, demonstrating the highest standards of public service. 

'You have our enduring thanks and heartfelt appreciation. ELIZABETH R.'

Elizabeth II was merely a youngster when her father King George VI introduced the accolade in 1940 as a way of praising those who carried out "acts of the greatest heroism or of the most courage in circumstances of extreme danger”. 

The GC has been given as a collective award on just two previous occasions: In 1942, it was awarded to the island of Malta for the “heroism and devotion of its people” during the Siege of Malta in WWII. The Cross was added to the Maltese flag in 1943 and remains there today.

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And in 1999 the George Cross was awarded to The Royal Ulster Constabulary, now the @PoliceServiceNI, for their action against terrorism and protection of Northern Irish communities during The Troubles. The Queen presented the award at Hillsborough Castle in 2000.

The Queen's latest recipient of the George's Cross honour has been welcomed by royal fans. One wrote, 'Magnificent gesture', another put, 'What a lovely message and wonderful gesture from Her Majesty. ❤️ Congratulations to all NHS staff! They definitely deserve to receive the award.' And a third added, 'Unsung heroes being recognised, truly wonderful.'

Prince William paid an emotional tribute to an NHS worker who died of Covid (opens in new tab) earlier this year.