Watch: Queen offers personal message of hope in Christmas Day address
The Queen has sympathised with those missing family during a quiet Christmas as she said all many this year really want a hug as a present.
As well as thanking frontline workers and scientists who have “risen magnificently to the challenges of the year”, the Queen spoke about the differences and difficulties of the festive season, and the loneliness many will face this year.
She said: “Of course, for many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness: some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family members distanced for safety, when all they’d really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand.
“If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”
As the Queen is 94, she is at higher risk if she were to contract coronavirus, and has spent much of this year shielding in Windsor Castle, carrying out engagements and audiences over video call.
She and her husband Prince Philip are spending a quiet Christmas together at Windsor Castle - the first festive season there in more than 30 years - having been placed in Tier 4 because of a new strain of the virus barely a week before 25 December.
But despite challenges, her message went ahead on Friday afternoon, pre-recorded from Windsor. The message was filmed in the Green Drawing Room, with three others with the Queen.
Beginning her message, she said: “Every year we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood — light brings hope.
“For Christians, Jesus is ‘the light of the world’, but we can’t celebrate his birth today in quite the usual way. People of all faiths have been unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals, such as Passover, Easter, Eid and Vaisakhi. But we need life to go on.”
She added: “Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer. Across the Commonwealth, my family and I have been inspired by stories of people volunteering in their communities, helping those in need.
“In the United Kingdom and around the world, people have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year, and I am so proud and moved by this quiet, indomitable spirit. To our young people in particular I say thank you for the part you have played.”
Reflecting on this year’s International Nurses’ Day, she thanked doctors, nurses, and scientists, saying: “Today, our frontline services still shine that lamp for us – supported by the amazing achievements of modern science – and we owe them a debt of gratitude.”
The Queen, who would usually have attended a church service at St Mary Magdalene in Sandringham, drew on her Christian faith, sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan and adding: “The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship.”
She is expected to worship privately in the chapel in Windsor Castle, to avoid a crowd gathering at St George’s, in the castle grounds.
While much of her work has had to be postponed, she was able in November to mark Remembrance Day and to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, which she recalled in her message.
“The Unknown Warrior was not exceptional. That’s the point. He represents millions like him who throughout our history have put the lives of others above their own, and will be doing so today. For me, this is a source of enduring hope in difficult and unpredictable times,” she said.
Closing her message, she said: “The Bible tells how a star appeared in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus’s birth. Let the light of Christmas — the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope — guide us in the times ahead.
“It is in that spirit that I wish you a very happy Christmas.”
The Queen wore an Angela Kelly rich purple dress, with a Queen Mother diamond and mother of pearl shell brooch.
Shielding at Windsor Castle
Before the UK went into a national lockdown in March, the Queen escaped the capital, heading to Windsor Castle, where she usually spends her weekends if she is London.
Her husband, Prince Philip, flew down from Sandringham where he has lived since he retired in 2017, to spend what would turn out to be their longest spell together in some years.
It was there that the Queen recorded a rare broadcast, addressing the UK and the Commonwealth at the height of the pandemic in April.
She encouraged people to remember ‘we’ll meet again’ evoking wartime spirit.
The Queen and Philip stayed in Windsor until the Summer, when they were able to then make a quick dash up to Scotland for a brief stay in Balmoral.
On the way back, the Queen stayed for a short time at Sandringham, but Philip ended up coming back with her to Windsor in the autumn, where they have been since.
Both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been in good health throughout the pandemic, and have worked with a reduced household staff.
They marked the duke’s 99th birthday, the Queen’s 94th, and their 70th wedding anniversary while in various forms of restrictions.
Charles and William’s positive tests
Prince Charles was the first British royal to test positive for coronavirus, confirming he had caught it early on in the pandemic.
He was in Birkhall in March when he had to isolate after returning the positive test.
However, his wife Camilla did not contract the virus. She isolated in line with government guidance at the time despite the negative test result.
Charles, 72, had mild symptoms, and worked throughout his period of isolation. He revealed at an engagement in June that he had lost his sense of smell and taste.
In November it emerged that Prince William had tested positive for coronavirus in April, but had kept quiet about the diagnosis.
William, 38, reportedly struggled to breathe when he had the virus, but Kensington Palace did not give out details of his battle with COVID-19.
He apparently did not want to alarm the nation, as Boris Johnson was also ill at the same time.
Reduced engagements - and more video calls
Many people will feel they lived their lives through screens in 2020, with more video calls than ever to keep in touch with friends and family while social distancing.
The Queen adapted to the modern world of video calls as much as anyone else, getting a lesson in them from her daughter Princess Anne.
She increase the number of calls she took on as the year went on, and moved her audiences at Buckingham Palace online too.
Watch: Queen suffers technical problem during video call
However, she did manage a small number of in-person engagements, including giving out a very special knighthood at Windsor Castle.
Col Sir Tom Moore was given one of the only investitures of the year at Windsor in a small ceremony involving the Queen in July.
She also insisted on the Trooping the Colour ceremony in June, which was scaled down and held in the Quadrant in Windsor Castle instead of the Mall in London.
Prince William joined her at an engagement in Porton Down in October, when there was some controversy over the fact no one wore a mask during the visit.
In December, before Tier 4 was introduced, she was able to host a socially distanced carol concert - likely to be the last time the senior members of the Royal Family will be seen together in 2020, and potentially for several weeks into 2021.
A secret royal wedding
As restrictions in England eased in July 2020, the Queen’s granddaughter Princess Beatrice married in a secret ceremony.
She borrowed one of the Queen’s dresses, altered to fit her, and to add sleeves, to marry her fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.
In a year of cancellations, the smaller ceremony clearly brought joy to the Queen and Philip who were beaming in photographs released to mark the day.
Watch: 2020 news review - a year like no other