Queen's heartbreaking Christmas speech: 'Tinged with sadness'

Gillian Wolski
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·8-min read

The Queen has delivered her annual Christmas Day speech but, due to the unprecedented events of 2020, this year’s was unlike any other in her near seven-decade reign.

In her seven-minute message, the 94-year-old monarch sympathised with her fellow Britons and the rest of the world as many prepared for a lonely and quiet festive season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

EMBARGOED: not for publication in any territory before 1500 LOCAL TIME. No use after 24 January 2021 without the prior written consent of The Communications Secretary to The Queen at Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth II records her annual Christmas broadcast in Windsor Castle, Berkshire.
Queen Elizabeth II records her annual Christmas broadcast in Windsor Castle, Berkshire. (PA)

‘Tinged with sadness’

“Of course, for many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness,” Her Majesty said.

“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.”

For the first time in 30 years, the Queen is spending Christmas at Windsor Castle, where she and her 99-year-old husband, Prince Philip, have been isolating since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March.

Traditionally, the royal couple celebrates with a huge family gathering, including their children, grandchildren and other relatives at Sandringham, in Norfolk, however due to COVID restrictions this won’t be going ahead.

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Queen’s touching speech

After delaying filming due to Brexit earlier in December, HRH finally recorded her message in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor win time for its 3pm Christmas Day broadcast.

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.”

Charles and Camilla released this image to mark Christmas Day 2020. (Clarence House)
Charles and Camilla released this image to mark Christmas Day 2020. (Clarence House)

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 shared the parable of the Good Samaritan, 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.”

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.”

For her special broadcast, the Queen wore an Angela Kelly rich purple dress, with a Queen Mother diamond and mother of pearl shell brooch.

Britain's Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, his wife Britain's Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and their children Britain's Prince George of Cambridge (R), Britain's Princess Charlotte of Cambridge (3rd L) and Britain's Prince Louis of Cambridge (L) arrive to attend a special pantomime performance of The National Lotterys Pantoland at London's Palladium Theatre in London on December 11, 2020, to thank key workers and their families for their efforts throughout the pandemic. (Photo by Aaron Chown / POOL / AFP) (Photo by AARON CHOWN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Prince William and Kate Middleton took their three kids to a special pantomime performance in London on December 11, 2020, to thank key workers and their families for their efforts throughout the pandemic. Photo: Getty Images.

Kate and Will’s Xmas wish

In a similar tone to his grandmother, Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, released their own heartfelt Christmas message encouraging those who are struggling to reach out for support.

“Wishing a merry Christmas doesn’t feel right this year, so instead we’re wishing for a better 2021. For those struggling today, there is support available,” the future king and queen wrote on Twitter.

“This Christmas our thoughts are with those of you who are spending today alone, those of you who are mourning the loss of a loved one, and those of you on the frontline who are still mustering the energy to put your own lives on hold to look after the rest of us,” the tweet continued.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made sure to include links to mental health organisations and resources along with inspiring photos of healthcare workers, volunteers and ordinary people doing their best to get through such a tough time.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shared a heartfelt Christmas message on Twitter. Photo: twitter/kensingtonroyal.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge shared a heartfelt Christmas message on Twitter. Photo: twitter/kensingtonroyal.

A quiet Christmas

Like many other UK residents, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s festive plans were dashed when they were placed under ‘Tier 4’ restrictions after a new strain of the virus was discovered barely a week before December 25.

Instead of attending the usual mid-morning Christmas Day church service at St Mary Magdalene in Sandringham with their family, the pair are expected to break the 32-year tradition to worship privately in the chapel in Windsor Castle to avoid the crowds.

On Christmas Eve, Norfolk police released a statement confirming "no members" of the royal family will appear at St Mary Magdalene, an event which normally attracts many royals fans and wellwishers.

This is the first Christmas Day the couple will be without any of their four children for the first time since 1949 when the Queen left Prince Charles in the UK so she could be with Prince Philip in Malta.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will spend Christmas at Highgrove, in Gloucestershire, but are expected to visit the Queen and Prince Philip at some point over the festive season.

Meanwhile, Prince William and his family will likely spend Christmas at Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, or with the Middleton family in Berkshire.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will likely remain in the US for Christmas as it's been revealed the Duke of Sussex is "not ready" to return to the UK.

It will be the second year in a row that the couple will miss the traditional Sandringham Christmas celebrations. They will instead host a small get together at their own home.

Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace, London, for Windsor Castle to socially distance herself amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Aaron Chown/PA Images via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II leaves Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle to socially distance herself amid the coronavirus pandemic in March. (Aaron Chown/PA Images)

Life goes on

Both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been in good health throughout the pandemic, and have worked with a reduced household staff at Windsor.

They marked the Duke’s 99th birthday, the Queen’s 94th, and their 70th wedding anniversary while in various forms of restrictions.

To continue her duties, 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.

However, she did manage a small number of in-person engagements, including giving out a very special knighthood at Windsor Castle to charity fundraiser Col Sir Tom Moore 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.

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Queen Elizabeth II awards Captain Sir Thomas Moore with the insignia of Knight Bachelor at Windsor Castle on July 17, 2020 in Windsor, England. British World War II veteran Captain Tom Moore raised over £32 million for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by UK Press Pool/UK Press via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II awards Captain Sir Thomas Moore with the insignia of Knight Bachelor at Windsor Castle in July. (UK Press Pool/UK Press)

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.

As restrictions in England eased in July 2020, both the Queen and Prince Philip were able to celebrate their granddaughter Princess Beatrice’s secret wedding to fiancé Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi.

Royals catch COVID

Prince Charles, however, 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.

CRATHIE, SCOTLAND - MAY 8: In this picture released by Clarence House,  Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay when in Scotland) walk to take part in a two minute silence to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day at the Balmoral War Memorial on May 8, 2020 near Crathie, United Kingdom.   During the event the Prince of Wales laid a wreath and the Duchess of Cornwall placed flowers at the memorial. The UK commemorates the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) with a pared-back rota of events due to the coronavirus lockdown. On May 8th, 1945 the Allied Forces of World War II celebrated the formal acceptance of surrender of Nazi Germany.   (Photo by Amy Muir/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Charles and Camilla, here in May, stayed in Scotland during the first lockdown. Charles tested positive for coronavirus. (Amy Muir/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

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.

Additional reporting by Rebecca C Taylor and Marni Dixit.

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