Many interpreted Her Majesty’s remarks about ‘respect’ when coming to terms with ‘deeply held differences’ as a gentle call for political and public debate on this totemic issue to be toned down.
Yet the context is critical. The Queen did not refer to Brexit. Her discretion remains absolute. And the comments did, in fact, directly follow a passage about the Commonwealth, an union which remains integral to her reign.
However, as she spoke about the importance of ‘faith, family and friendship’, her words of wisdom will have brought comfort to the silent majority who do despair about the current state of politics and the self-evident decline of statesmanship.
After all, the “goodwill and affection” that her father, King George VI, spoke about in his own speech of 1948 does appear to be in short supply as politics becomes more polarised by the day.
Leaders at home and abroad have set a poor example. They have become more intolerant of opponents and this, in turn, has spilled over into the public arena where divisiveness on all manner of issues, amplified by social media, is making it harder than ever for differences to be reconciled.
And this is why the Queen’s very pointed words will be construed, and with justifiable reason, as some of the most pertinent of her reign after she said that Jesus’s “message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date” and is “needed as much as ever”.
For if this can become a starting point for dialogue in the New Year, and people in all walks of life try to heed Her Majesty’s comments about respect, Britain might just be a happier place to live and work in 2019.