THE QUEEN has used her Christmas Day address to highlight the Christian message of light triumphing over the dark following a year which has seen “moments of darkness”.
During the broadcast the monarch also acknowledged the birth of her fifth great grandchild Princess Charlotte, born in May, and made a light-hearted reference to her approaching 90th birthday on April 21.
And at the end of a year which saw the head of state become the nation’s longest reigning monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria’s record, the Queen acknowledged the influence of her great-great grandparents Victoria and Prince Albert on the nation’s Christmas traditions.
A series of terrorist atrocities have shocked the world during 2015, from the mass shootings and bombings in Paris last month to the gun attack at a Tunisian resort during the summer.
But the Queen, whose address traditionally has a strong religious framework reflecting her own faith, sounded an optimistic tone when she quoted a verse from the Bible.
Reflecting on the past 12 months, the monarch said during her annual address to the nation: “It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’.’’
Sitting at a desk in Buckingham Palace’s 18th Century Room, with a decorated fireplace and Christmas tree in the background, the Queen went on to say: “Gathering round the tree gives us a chance to think about the year ahead - I am looking forward to a busy 2016, though I have been warned I may have Happy Birthday sung to me more than once or twice.
“It also allows us to reflect on the year that has passed, as we think of those who are far away or no longer with us. Many people say the first Christmas after losing a loved one is particularly hard. But it’s also a time to remember all that we have to be thankful for.”
The monarch, who wore a white and silver tweed day dress by Angela Kelly, went on to mention the latest addition to her family: “One of the joys of living a long life is watching one’s children, then grandchildren, then great grandchildren, help decorate the Christmas tree. And this year my family has a new member to join in the fun!”
The broadcast, produced this year by ITN, was a departure from previous Christmas messages as it was not interspersed with footage filmed at royal events. Instead, a montage of royal engagements, featuring all senior members of the Royal Family, was shown at the start before the Queen spoke.
But a 19th century image of Victoria and Albert around a candle-lit tree was shown and the Queen said: “After this touching picture was published, many families wanted a Christmas tree of their own, and the custom soon spread.”
Queen Charlotte, the German-born wife of George III, is credited with introducing the Christmas tree to Britain.
But it was Albert who popularised it, presenting large numbers to schools and Army barracks.
And while most people open their presents on Christmas Day, the Royal Family still keep to the German practice of unwrapping their gifts on Christmas Eve.
The first images of the broadcast were of Buckingham Palace, taken by a drone rising into the sky.
The footage was accompanied by a selection of members from three choirs - Bath Bach Choir, Exeter Festival Chorus and the Bath Camerata - first humming then singing the national anthem.
As the montage began it featured the Queen in an array of strikingly coloured outfits as she attended various events - images from the state opening of Parliament were also shown and the Royal Family gathered on Buckingham Palace’s balcony after the Trooping the Colour ceremony.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, with their children Prince George and Charlotte, were seen on the day of their daughter’s christening, and the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were shown in Frankfurt and visiting the former concentration camp Bergen-Belsen during their state visit to Germany.
The Queen returned to the theme of the Christmas tree, and with family photographs beside her on the desk, she said: “The custom of topping a tree also goes back to Prince Albert’s time. For his family’s tree, he chose an angel, helping to remind us that the focus of the Christmas story is on one particular family.
“For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth - in a stable - were far from ideal, but worse was to come as the family was forced to flee the country. It’s no surprise that such a human story still captures our imagination and continues to inspire all of us who are Christians, the world over.
“Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.”
The Queen began her message by commenting on how the “twinkling lights” of a Christmas tree can evoke “feelings of cheer and goodwill” and she returned to the theme of the symbolic importance of light for her closing words.
She said: “There are millions of people lighting candles of hope in our world today. Christmas is a good time to be thankful for them, and for all that brings light to our lives.”
The last images were of children of Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace singing Away In A Manger.