Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II used her Christmas Day address to say she missed her late husband Prince Philip and the “mischievous, enquiring twinkle” in his eye – but said the duke would have wanted a joyful festive season.
In an unusually personal reflection, the monarch, 95, said she felt the pain of those who had lost loved ones in the past year, after another 12 months overshadowed by Covid-19.
The pandemic meant some people could not “celebrate quite as we may have wished”, she said, with the queen herself staying at Windsor Castle rather than making her usual trip to her Sandringham country estate.
But she said people could still enjoy passing on traditions to their children, such as singing carols, exchanging presents and watching Christmas films.
In a tribute to Philip, who died in April at the age of 99, the queen said he was “always mindful of this sense of passing the baton” and praised his work for young people and the environment.
Wearing a sapphire chrysanthemum brooch that she wore on her honeymoon in 1947, she said she had drawn comfort from the many tributes paid to the duke from around the world after his death.
“His sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation – were all irrepressible,” she said in her traditional televised address, sitting behind a photograph of the queen and Philip in 2007.
“That mischievous, enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him.
“But life, of course, consists of final partings as well as first meetings – and as much as I and my family miss him, I know he would want us to enjoy Christmas. We felt his presence as we, like millions around the world, readied ourselves for Christmas.”
A service of thanksgiving for Philip is planned next year, which also marks the 70th year of the queen’s reign. She said she hoped the Platinum Jubilee celebrations would foster a sense of togetherness in the UK.
There was no reference in her address to the year’s other setbacks for the royal family, such as the fallout from an interview by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, – the queen's grandson Prince Harry and his wife Megan – which alleged racist attitudes behind palace doors.
The monarchy was separately embroiled in legal controversies surrounding the queen’s son, Prince Andrew, and an old scandal involving a TV interview with the late Diana, Princess of Wales.
The queen did mention the birth of four great-grandchildren in 2021, one of whom was Prince Harry and Meghan’s daughter Lilibet.
“Adults, when weighed down with worries, sometimes fail to see the joy in simple things, where children do not,” she said.
“And for me and my family, even with one familiar laugh missing this year, there will be joy in Christmas, as we have the chance to reminisce, and see anew the wonder of the festive season through the eyes of our young children, of whom we were delighted to welcome four more this year.”
The queen praised her son Charles, grandson William and their wives Camilla and Kate for taking on Philip’s interest in the environment, after they appeared at last month’s Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow.
“I am proud beyond words that his pioneering work has been taken on and magnified” by Philip’s children and grandchildren, she said.