A traditional part of every Christmas Day is seeing Queen Elizabeth II and her family in church. Not this year. The coronavirus pandemic saw to that.
Still, the 94-year-old queen fulfilled what is considered her favorite Christmas Day duty. She addressed the nation – and the Commonwealth – on television Friday.
The queen, who has spent most of the year isolated at Windsor Castle with her husband of 99 years, Prince Philip, delivered a heartfelt message of hope in her Christmas address, praising the “indomitable spirit” of those who have risen “magnificently” to the challenges of the pandemic.
Sitting behind a desk with a private portrait of Philip as the only family photo, the queen expressed sympathy for the hardships of the past months, but also offered hope for a return to normalcy.
“We continue to be inspired by the kindness of strangers and draw comfort from the fact that – even on the darkest nights – there is hope for a new dawn,” she said.
The Queen wrote her address as she does every year, and her words should be particularly poignant given the upheaval many families have experienced during the pandemic, especially in the U.K., where the official death toll from the coronavirus stands at just over 70,000, the second highest in Europe after Italy.
The figure was recorded before the British government decided last weekend to abandon plans for a five-day relaxation of coronavirus restrictions around Christmas time. People in many parts of the U.K., including London, have been urged to stay home and avoid socializing, as a new variant of the virus is said to spread much more easily.
“Of course, this time of year will be tinged with sadness for many: some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family members who are far away for security reasons, even though all they would want for Christmas is a simple hug or handshake,” she said. “If you are one of those people, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”
There was a strong religious theme in the address, reflecting her Christian faith, and the queen said the biblical story of the Good Samaritan has relevance today.
“Good Samaritans have popped up all over society, showing care and respect for all, regardless of gender, race or background, reminding us that each of us is special and equal in the eyes of God,” she said.
Although she leads a far more solitary life, the queen has been a visible presence in recent months, most notably in her two televised addresses to the nation from Windsor Castle in April and May, designed in part to encourage people in the face of the lockdown.
Members of the royal family are spending the holidays at their respective residences this year, rather than gathering at Sandringham.