‘Our path this year has been bumpy’
The Queen to tell nation in Christmas message ‘long-held differences’ can be overcome
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