In a very personal message to all those mourning relatives, or spending Christmas alone and wishing for “a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand”, she told them: “You are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”
Her Majesty, 94, also lauded all those who have risen to the challenges of the pandemic before concluding her speech with this message: “Let the light of Christmas – the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope – guide us in the times ahead.”
The Queen’s third setpiece speech of the year to the nation, the broadcast ended with a moving rendition of the carol Joy To The World by an award-winning NHS choir to respect this year’s challenges.
Unlike previous years, the entire text of the speech remained a closely-guarded secret and the only family photo on the Queen’s drawing table – an regular source of intrigue by Royal watchers – was an image of her husband Prince Philip, 99, who is isolating with the Queen at Windsor Castle where they spent Christmas alone.
There were no public appearances by the Royal family – recognition of the importance of leading by example as families across the country are separated from each other ahead of tighter restrictions being imposed from Boxing Day morning onwards.
But they did broadcast seasonal messages to show their support for key workers – this will be the busiest Christmas on record for the NHS – and comfort all those grieving for loved ones as the UK death toll from Covid edges past 70,000.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s message said their thoughts are with those “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”.
They added: “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.”
This spirit was also recognised by the Most Reverend Stephen Cottrell in his first Christmas sermon as Archbishop of York. “Christmas was always going to be different this year. And difficult. We knew we wouldn’t be able to do the things we wanted. We knew our celebrations would be restricted,” he said.
Meanwhile Keighley-born Captain Sir Tom Moore, knighted by the Queen in the summer, said things “will get better”. The Second World War veteran won the hearts of the nation by raising more than £32m for the NHS, walking 100 laps of his garden, before his 100th birthday during the first lockdown.
But the eyes of the country were on the Queen’s Christmas broadcast just over 80 years after her first radio address as a teenage Princess Elizabeth. And it saw her reach out to people of all faiths in honouring all those who have “risen magnificently to the challenges of the year”. Without mentioning the word ‘coronavirus’, she said that she and her family were inspired by the stories of community volunteers.
She told them: “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.
“This year, we celebrated International Nurses’ Day, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. As with other nursing pioneers like Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale shone a lamp of hope across the world.
“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. We continue to be inspired by the kindness of strangers and draw comfort that – even on the darkest nights – there is hope in the new dawn.”
Praising the “Good Samaritans” who have “emerged across society showing care and respect for all, regardless of gender, race or background”, the Queen set today’s sacrifices in the context of a service that she attended to mark the centenary of the burial of an unknown Great War warrior.
“In November, we commemorated another hero – though nobody knows his name. The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior isn’t a large memorial, but everyone entering Westminster Abbey has to walk around his resting place, honouring this unnamed combatant of the First World War – a symbol of selfless duty and ultimate sacrifice,” she added.
“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.”