‘Our path this year has been bumpy’

The Queen to tell na­tion in Christmas mes­sage ‘long-held dif­fer­ences’ can be over­come

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Vic­to­ria Ward

THE Queen will to­mor­row speak of a “bumpy path” and “deep-seated di­vi­sions” in a year that has seen the coun­try split over Brexit and the gen­eral elec­tion as well as the scan­dal over the Duke of York’s re­la­tion­ship with the pae­dophile bil­lion­aire Jef­frey Ep­stein.

But in her an­nual Christmas broad­cast, Her Majesty will share a mes­sage of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion as she says “small steps taken in faith and hope” can over­come “long-held dif­fer­ences”.

She will use the 75th an­niver­sary of D-day as an ex­am­ple of how na­tions can move for­ward to­gether.

The Royal fam­ily are pre­par­ing for Christmas, with the Duke of Ed­in­burgh spend­ing a fifth day in hos­pi­tal where he is be­ing treated for an undis­closed con­di­tion. Yes­ter­day, the Prince of Wales said dur­ing a visit to flood-hit com­mu­ni­ties in South York­shire that his fa­ther was “be­ing looked af­ter very well in hos­pi­tal”, adding: “At the mo­ment that’s all we know.”

Asked later how the Duke was, he replied: “All right. When you get to that age things don’t work so well.”

The Queen’s Christmas mes­sage fol­lows a tur­bu­lent year for the Royal fam­ily that has been com­pared to the monarch’s an­nus hor­ri­bilis of 1992 when the mar­riages of three of her chil­dren col­lapsed.

This year, tele­vi­sion in­ter­views by both the Duke of York and the Duke and Duchess of Sus­sex have caused con­tro­versy and prompted de­bate over the fu­ture shape of the Royal fam­ily.

The Queen’s mes­sage was recorded in Wind­sor Cas­tle’s green draw­ing room last week, af­ter the elec­tion re­sult but be­fore the Duke, 98, was ad­mit­ted to the pri­vate King Ed­ward VII’S Hos­pi­tal in cen­tral Lon­don.

How­ever, a framed pho­to­graph of the Duke taken from the Queen’s pri­vate col­lec­tion is one of only a few on dis­play in the broad­cast, in a show of love and grat­i­tude for his “strength and stay”, as she called him on their golden wed­ding 22 years ago.

Speak­ing of the life of Je­sus and the im­por­tance of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, the 93-year-old Queen will de­scribe “how small steps taken in faith and in hope can over­come long-held dif­fer­ences and deep-seated di­vi­sions to bring har­mony and un­der­stand­ing”.

She adds: “The path, of course, is not al­ways smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of dif­fer­ence.”

‘Small steps taken in faith and in hope can over­come … deep-seated di­vi­sions to bring un­der­stand­ing’

As head of state, the Queen re­mains neu­tral on po­lit­i­cal mat­ters. Yet her mes­sage may be seen as a plea to the na­tion to unite in the wake of the gen­eral elec­tion and as Boris John­son pre­pares to take the UK out of the Euro­pean Union fol­low­ing three years of fraught ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Re­fer­ring to D-day, Her Majesty will say: “For the 75th An­niver­sary of that de­ci­sive bat­tle, in a true spirit of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, those who had for­merly been sworn en­e­mies came to­gether in friendly com­mem­o­ra­tions ei­ther side of the Chan­nel, putting past dif­fer­ences be­hind them. By be­ing will­ing to put past dif­fer­ences be­hind us and move for­ward to­gether, we hon­our the free­dom and democ­racy once won for us at so great a cost.”

It comes as Mr John­son is set to

re­lease his own Christmas mes­sage in which he will call on the coun­try to “re­flect on the year and cel­e­brate the good that is to come”. The Prime Min­is­ter will also call for Chris­tians around the world who are fac­ing per­se­cu­tion to be re­mem­bered, and will prom­ise that his Gov­ern­ment will “de­fend your right to prac­tice your faith”.

The Queen, wear­ing a royal blue cash­mere dress by An­gela Kelly, which was given a first out­ing in 2013 dur­ing Troop­ing the Colour, and sport­ing a sap­phire and di­a­mond brooch that Prince Al­bert gave to Queen Vic­to­ria on the eve of their wed­ding in 1840, is filmed sit­ting at a desk with a large Christmas tree in the back­ground.

Per­haps sig­nif­i­cantly, the pho­to­graphs on her ta­ble in­clude a black and white im­age of her fa­ther, Ge­orge VI, send­ing a mes­sage of hope and re­as­sur­ance to the Bri­tish peo­ple in 1944.

The oth­ers of­fer a nod to the slimmed down monar­chy of the fu­ture, fea­tur­ing the Prince of Wales with the Duchess of Corn­wall and the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge, with their three chil­dren. Last year, the Queen fea­tured pho­to­graphs of wider fam­ily, in­clud­ing the Duke and Duchess of Sus­sex and Princess Eu­ge­nie and Jack Brooks­bank on their wed­ding days. How­ever, royal mile­stones, such as the birth of Archie Har­ri­son Mount­bat­ten-wind­sor, are not in­cluded this year.

The work of the Royal fam­ily has been over­shad­owed in re­cent months by the fall­out from the Duke of York’s BBC News­night in­ter­view about his friend­ship with Ep­stein that was widely deemed a disas­ter. The Duke, 59, was heav­ily crit­i­cised for show­ing a lack of em­pa­thy to­wards Ep­stein’s vic­tims and lit­tle re­morse over his friend­ship with the dis­graced fi­nancier.

As a re­sult, some char­i­ties sev­ered their ties with the Duke, who was duly sum­moned to the Palace and ef­fec­tively sacked from pub­lic du­ties by the Queen. He may yet have to give ev­i­dence to a US crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The year started badly when the Duke of Ed­in­burgh was in­volved in a car crash at San­dring­ham on Jan 17. Then came the news that the Sus­sexes and the Cam­bridges were for­mally to split their house­holds fol­low­ing months of ru­mours – de­nied and down­played by aides – of rifts be­tween the princes and their fam­i­lies.

In the sum­mer, there was a se­ries of ad­verse head­lines over the Sus­sexes’ use of pri­vate jets and the ren­o­va­tion of Frog­more Cot­tage for £2.4 mil­lion at tax­pay­ers’ ex­pense.

The monar­chy was then dragged into a con­sti­tu­tional cri­sis when Mr John­son’s pro­ro­ga­tion of Par­lia­ment was deemed un­law­ful.

The Queen ad­dresses the na­tion along­side pic­tures of past and fu­ture kings – Ge­orge VI, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cam­bridge – as well as the Duke of Ed­in­burgh

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