Queen Elizabeth offered a particularly personal message on Saturday for her annual Christmas Day address, her first since the death of her husband, Prince Philip.
The address led with footage of Elizabeth and Philip through the decades and a voiceover snippet from the Queen’s speech on their golden wedding anniversary in 1997. In it, she called her husband, who died in April at the age of 99, her “strength and stay.”
“Although it’s a time of great happiness and good cheer for many, Christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones. This year, especially, I understand why,” the Queen said in the pre-recorded Christmas address from the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.
“But for me, in the months since the death of my beloved Philip, I have drawn great comfort from the warmth and affection of the many tributes to his life and work from around the country, the Commonwealth and the world.”
A framed photograph of the couple arm in arm sat in the foreground. In both the photo and her Christmas address, she was wearing the same sapphire chrysanthemum brooch.
The Queen remembered Philip for “his sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation.”
She said his legacy included the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award — which aims to foster young people’s personal growth — and his work related to the environment.
Christmas comes amid COVID surge
The televised Christmas Day message is a tradition in Britain, a moment when the monarch reflects on the holiday’s meaning and the challenges facing the country.
Last year, the Queen used the opportunity to convey a message of hope during the depths of the coronavirus pandemic and to praise the “indomitable spirit” of scientists, emergency workers and others who had risen to the challenges created by COVID-19.
This year, the Queen again addressed the continuing pandemic, which has seen England endure multiple lockdowns. Coronavirus restrictions in place at the time of Philip’s funeral meant that Elizabeth sat alone at the ceremony in St. George’s Chapel.
Cases have surged again in the lead-up to Christmas, with the U.K. reporting a new daily high of 122,186 cases on Friday. It was its third day of cases topping 100,000.
“While COVID again means we can’t celebrate quite as we may have wished, we can still enjoy the many happy traditions” of the holiday, the Queen said, naming the singing of carols, decorating the tree, exchanging presents or watching a favourite film.
She said it is “no surprise that families so often treasure their Christmas routines.”
“We see our own children and their families embrace the roles, traditions and values that mean so much to us, as these are passed from one generation to the next, sometimes being updated for changing times.”
At 95, Elizabeth is the world’s oldest and longest-reigning monarch. Her health came under the spotlight this year after she missed a number of high-profile engagements, including the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, after being advised to rest and a brief hospital stay.
In her Christmas address, the Queen looked ahead to next year’s Commonwealth Games and her Platinum Jubilee. The latter marks Elizabeth’s seven decades on the throne.
She said she hoped it would be “an opportunity for people everywhere to enjoy a sense of togetherness, a chance to give thanks for the enormous changes of the last 70 years, social, scientific and cultural, and also to look ahead with confidence.”