Full disclosure, this image was also generated by AI (Picture: Adobe Firefly)
Coronation day is almost upon us, but while most of the festivities have been planned with military precision, it seems no decision has yet been made over whether the newly-crowned king will address the nation.
The coronation speech isn’t a long-standing tradition – most of King Charles’s ancestors didn’t have the technological capabilities to broadcast their words. However, his mother Queen Elizabeth II made history when her coronation was watched by 27million Brits, and many tuned in again that evening for a speech reflecting on the day.
The Queen’s father, King George VI, famously struggled with public speaking – as immortalised in the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech starring Colin Firth. Nevertheless, he too gave a speech on the day.
But with the coronation fast approaching, there isn’t much time left to pen rousing rhetoric befitting such a historic occasion.
Perhaps AI can assist?
Yes, it’s been a bad week for AI, and the jury is still out on whether it will make our lives better or prove a looming malevolent presence that simultaneously enslaves humanity while making us all redundant.
But until we know, we might as well have some fun with it.
Queue Microsoft Bing’s ChatGPT assistant and Google’s own chatbot Bard.
Both were given the same prompt, ‘Please can you write a coronation speech for King Charles?’ (because you should be polite to our future overlords), and within seconds, two speeches appeared.
Scroll down to read the speeches in full
The Coronation of King Charles III will take place on Saturday (Picture: Hugo Burnand/PA)
On initialinspection, it seems Bing put a lot more thought into it than Bard. Google’s effort weighed in at just 255 words, compared to the 637 turned out by Bing.
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Each speech opens with a similar traditional greeting along. Bing opts for, ‘My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, and all my fellow citizens of this great nation and the Commonwealth’ – and just for fun, inexplicably throws in ‘My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen’ four paragraphs from the end.
Bard would have the King greet himself off the bat: ‘Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen.’
Likewise, both speeches employ the same sign-off, ‘God save the King’ – with a jolly exclamation mark from Bard.
That might sound legit, but in fact, monarchs do not wrap up speeches in such self-indulgent fashion, so both lose a point for that mistake.
Of course, humans make errors too – see Joe Biden and George Bush for starters.
But what does a human speech writer make of Bing and Bard’s efforts?
Coronation celebrations will be taking place across the country (Picture: PA)
The expert’s view
‘Bing’s could easily be a pretty advanced draft of a coronation speech,’ says Sam Cooper, a strategic communications manager and speechwriter.
‘Bard’s is generally quite sparse, to-the-point. Most sentences take a clear subject/verb/object structure – it would certainly be the easier one to read out loud, as it’s very clean grammatically, but it’s also safe and quite dull in its contents.’
It wouldn’t be the first dull speech ever written, and to be fair, Bard has been trained on many of those – but also some of the most inspirational.
‘Speechwriters often try to appeal to three things,’ says Cooper, who has previously written for a member of the royal family. ‘Logos, or reason; ethos, or the speaker’s authority; and pathos, or the listener’s emotions. Both speeches cover ethos – how King Charles’s experience has prepared him for the role – and logos – how we should celebrate this moment but also be aware of challenges in the future.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on the day of their coronation, 1953 (Picture: The Print Collector/Getty)
‘Bard is lacking in pathos, but Bing tries to capture the King’s feelings as a person alongside his role as a figurehead.
‘This is the aspect of AI that is starting to spook a lot of writers – its ability to reflect human emotion alongside logic.’
For example, on those who came before King Charles, Bard writes: ‘I have been blessed to have had the most extraordinary role model in my life, my mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She has served this country and the Commonwealth with unparalleled dedication, duty, and grace for 70 years. I can only hope to emulate her example as I begin my reign.’
But Bing goes further: ‘I am also keenly aware of the long and glorious history of this realm, which has been shaped by the courage, wisdom and service of so many monarchs who have gone before me. I pay tribute to them all, especially to my beloved mother, Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign was marked by unparalleled devotion, dignity and duty. She was an inspiration to me and to millions around the world, and I shall always strive to uphold her legacy and honour her memory.’
Bard also loses a point for using the wrong tense in reference to the Queen.
What does Bard and Bing promise of the King?
On King Charles’s duties as monarch, Bard offers: ‘I am committed to upholding the values of this great nation: democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. I will work tirelessly to protect these values and to ensure that they are enjoyed by all.’
That’s good to hear, obviously, but Bing brings the emotion: ‘I pledge to you today that I will be a King for all the people of this land, regardless of their background, beliefs or circumstances. I will be a King who listens, who cares, who serves and who leads.
‘I will be a King who seeks to build bridges, not walls; who fosters cooperation, not division; who promotes harmony, not discord; who champions justice, not injustice; who respects diversity, not intolerance; who cherishes freedom, not oppression; who supports peace, not violence.’
Coopers says: ‘This paragraph is great, and brings to mind lots of great speeches from history, such as JFK’s 1961 inaugural address – “We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom”.’
And while there is room for evoking emotion in the listener during a speech, one mustn’t forget the coronation is still a fairly straight-laced affair.
What sort of monarch will King Charles be? (Picture: PA)
‘Big, ceremonial speeches like this one don’t tend to have too much space for anything idiosyncratic,’ says Cooper, ‘so in a way they’re the perfect speech for AI to write.
‘In terms of the vision that they set out, they’re pretty similar. Both look to the past, the present, then the future. Both include some version of the ‘there are challenges – and opportunities’ construct that nearly every political speech includes.’
In other words, both are very passable affairs.
And the winner is…
‘But what clinched Bing’s as my favourite was its switch at the end, from being about him to being about ‘you’ the listener, which we can see in the change of pronouns,’ says Cooper, who did not know which chatbot wrote which speech while assessing them.
‘It writes “We want to celebrate your achievements and share your challenges. We want to be close to you and connect with you.” All that repetition of “you” and “your” is great. Bard sticks with ‘I’ pretty much all the way through.’
Cooper continues: ‘Funnily enough, this is the same pronoun switch that the Queen made [on her coronation day] in 1953 – “As this day draws to its close, I know that my abiding memory of it will be, not only the solemnity and beauty of the ceremony, but the inspiration of your loyalty and affection. I thank you all from a full heart. God bless you all”.’
See, not God save the Queen.
But, maybe, save our jobs?
As Cooper says, ‘Speechwriters be warned!’
Bing v Bard: the speeches
Bing with ChatGPT
My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, and all my fellow citizens of this great nation and the Commonwealth,
It is with profound humility and gratitude that I stand before you today as your King, having received the sacred crown of my ancestors from the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury. I am deeply conscious of the solemn responsibility that has been entrusted to me by the will of God and the consent of the people.
I am also keenly aware of the long and glorious history of this realm, which has been shaped by the courage, wisdom and service of so many monarchs who have gone before me. I pay tribute to them all, especially to my beloved mother, Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign was marked by unparalleled devotion, dignity and duty. She was an inspiration to me and to millions around the world, and I shall always strive to uphold her legacy and honour her memory.
As I begin my reign, I am mindful of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for us as a nation and a family of nations. We live in a time of rapid change and uncertainty, but also of great potential and promise. We face threats to our security, our environment, our values and our way of life, but we also have the means and the will to overcome them. We have a rich and diverse society, a strong and resilient economy, a proud and creative culture, and a global influence that is rooted in our common values and interests.
I pledge to you today that I will be a King for all the people of this land, regardless of their background, beliefs or circumstances. I will be a King who listens, who cares, who serves and who leads. I will be a King who seeks to build bridges, not walls; who fosters cooperation, not division; who promotes harmony, not discord; who champions justice, not injustice; who respects diversity, not intolerance; who cherishes freedom, not oppression; who supports peace, not violence.
I am fortunate to have by my side my dear wife, Camilla, the Queen Consort, who has been a constant source of love, support and encouragement to me throughout our marriage. She shares my vision and my values, and she will be a devoted partner in our service to you. Together, we look forward to working with our Prime Minister, our Parliament, our devolved administrations, our local authorities, our civil society and our armed forces to advance the common good of our country and our people.
We also look forward to strengthening the bonds that unite us with our fellow members of the Commonwealth, a unique and remarkable association of nations that spans every continent and every ocean. We are proud to belong to this family of nations that shares a common history, a common heritage and a common future. We are committed to supporting its ideals of democracy, human rights, development and cooperation.
Finally, we look forward to meeting you in person as we travel across this land and beyond in the coming months and years. We want to hear your hopes and your fears, your joys and your sorrows, your dreams and your realities. We want to celebrate your achievements and share your challenges. We want to be close to you and connect with you.
My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is a great day for me personally, but it is also a great day for us collectively. It is a day when we renew our faith in our monarchy, our nation and ourselves. It is a day when we reaffirm our loyalty to each other and our allegiance to our sovereign. It is a day when we look back with gratitude and look forward with hope.
May God bless you all.
And may God save the King.
Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I stand before you today humbled and honored to be your new King. I have been blessed to have had the most extraordinary role model in my life, my mother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She has served this country and the Commonwealth with unparalleled dedication, duty, and grace for 70 years. I can only hope to emulate her example as I begin my reign.
I have spent my life committed to public service. I have worked in many different fields, from the military to the environment, and I have always tried to use my position to make a difference in the world. I believe that we all have a responsibility to help others, and I will do my utmost to be a compassionate and caring leader.
I am committed to upholding the values of this great nation: democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. I will work tirelessly to protect these values and to ensure that they are enjoyed by all.
I am also committed to the Commonwealth. I believe that the Commonwealth is a force for good in the world, and I will do everything I can to strengthen it.
I am aware that there are many challenges facing our country and our world today. But I am confident that, together, we can overcome them. We are a strong and resilient people, and we will emerge from these challenges stronger than ever before.
I thank you for your support, and I look forward to serving you as your King.
God save the King!
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