Queen speaks of 'quite bumpy' year in annual Christmas message

24 December 2019, 05:25

The Queen's message will be broadcast on Christmas Day
The Queen's message will be broadcast on Christmas Day. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The Queen is set to say 2019 was a "bumpy" year before stressing the importance of reconciliation in her annual Christmas message, in what will be seen as a nod to political and personal turmoil of the past 12 months.

The Queen's annual message to the nation is likely to be interpreted as a reflection on Brexit divisions as well as dramas in her own family.

During 2019, the royals saw the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spoke about their struggles living in the public eye, the Duke of Edinburgh was involved in a dramatic car accident, and the Duke of York gave a disastrous television interview about his friendship with a convicted sex offender.

The toxic mood of the public debate around Brexit has continued throughout the past 12 months, with the issue bitterly dividing the country and parliament, leading to uncertainty.

But the Queen will comment on how "small steps taken in faith and in hope" can be significant, and ultimately break down "long-held differences".

The head of state will also highlight the 75th anniversary of the Second World War D-Day landings, and how former "sworn enemies" joined together in friendly commemorations to mark the milestone in 2019.

The Queen could be spending Christmas without her husband who is in hospital;l
The Queen could be spending Christmas without her husband who is in hospital;l. Picture: PA

In her Christmas Day broadcast to the nation and the Commonwealth, the Queen, speaking about the life of Jesus and the importance of reconciliation, will say: "...how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding...

"The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of difference."

The Queen's comment is thought to be her first public reference to the personal events her family has experienced this year.

Commentators may interpret the Queen's words as indicating the past year may be one she would rather forget, like 1992 which she dubbed her "annus horribilis" after the marriages of three of her children collapsed.

In that year the Princess Royal divorced, the Duke and Duchess of York separated as did the Prince and Princess of Wales, and Windsor Castle went up in flames.

During the past 12 months, the most significant and damaging event for the monarchy was Andrew's appearance on the BBC's Newsnight programme which has left his reputation in tatters.

His attempt to explain his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein backfired and he was heavily criticised for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein's victims and little remorse over his friendship with the disgraced financier.

In the interview, the duke denied claims he slept with Virginia Giuffre, one of Epstein's victims, on three separate occasions.

Andrew has stepped down from royal duties for the foreseeable future, and some commentators have suggested he may have effectively retired from public life, especially after a large number of his patronages accepted his resignation.

Concerns have been voiced by royal watchers about Harry and Meghan who have based themselves in Canada during an extended festive break with baby son Archie.

The couple missed the Queen's pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace and will not be present for the traditional royal family gathering at the monarch's private Sandringham estate on Christmas Day.

The decision to leave the UK comes after the duke and duchess appeared in a documentary with Harry saying he and his brother the Duke of Cambridge were now "on different paths" and have "good days" and "bad days" in their relationship.

While Meghan described the past year as a member of the royal family as "hard" and said she tried to cope with the pressures of her new life by putting on a "stiff upper lip", but she was not prepared for the intensity of tabloid newspaper interest.

The Duke of Edinburgh is currently in hospital
The Duke of Edinburgh is currently in hospital. Picture: PA

Philip, aged 98, voluntarily surrendered his licence after he was involved in a car crash on the Sandringham estate in January that left two women in another vehicle injured, while a baby with them had a miraculous escape.

The duke faced criticism for taking too long to contact the occupants of the other car and for being seen driving without his seat-belt in the days that followed.

The Duke then spent four nights in hospital being treated for a "pre-existing condition," he was discharged on Christmas Eve morning in time to spend Christmas with the Queen.

Brexit was the over-riding national issue of the year and resulted in rancorous debates in the Commons and ultimately led to a snap general election in December won by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Commentators have described the uncertainty of when and how Britain will leave the EU as affecting many.

The message, produced by the BBC, was recorded in Windsor Castle's green drawing room after the general election but before Philip was admitted to a private London hospital for treatment for his undisclosed condition.

The Queen is filmed sitting at a desk featuring photographs of her family with a large Christmas tree in the background.

One picture shows the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis - perched on and around a motorbike and sidecar - an image used for the couple's Christmas card.

In June, the UK hosted a major international event in Portsmouth commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day and attended by world leaders including US President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

"For the seventy-fifth anniversary of that decisive battle, in a true spirit of reconciliation, those who had formerly been sworn enemies came together in friendly commemorations either side of the Channel, putting past differences behind them..." the Queen will say in her message.

She will add: "By being willing to put past differences behind us and move forward together, we honour the freedom and democracy once won for us at so great a cost."

Other family photographs that can be seen on the desk include the picture of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, which marked the 50th anniversary of Charles being invested as the Prince of Wales.

There is also a black and white image of the Queen's father King George VI sending a message of hope and reassurance to the British people in 1944.