In her final official address to the nation, on Christmas Day 2021, Queen Elizabeth II’s opening words had a deep resonance over what has now passed following a year of dwindling public appearances.
“Although it’s a time of great happiness and good cheer for many, Christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones. This year, especially, I understand why.”
Her ability to capture the nation’s emotions with a sense of shared empathy was the glue that held Britain together at time of national crisis, as witnessed in the address during the Covid-19 pandemic in which almost 150,000 people had died by Christmas 2021.
She then referred to her husband, Prince Philip, who had died in April and the comfort she found from the many tributes paid to him.
She then gave her own very personal memory praising the prince’s “capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation,” then revealed her adoration for him: “That mischievous, enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him.”
The sad prescience of the speech continues. “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.”
The poignant message was her last official address to the nation. The queen remained in Windsor Castle, which after Balmoral was her favoured residence, awaiting her next major appearance for the platinum jubilee.
Platinum jubilee appearance
Having reigned for an unprecedented 70 years on the throne, Britain wanted to give Queen Elizabeth an appropriate mark of respect. In February, ahead of Accession Day, she cut a cake baked to acknowledge her 70 years on the throne as she met members of the Sandringham community, joking "I don't matter" when told it was facing the cameras rather than herself. In May, she also paid a brief visit to Paddington Station where she opened the new Elizabeth Line.
However, when it came to the official long weekend celebrations in June, it was clear over the four days that she was becoming frail but not so infirm that she could not record a piece of television that will be played for years to come.
The queen was filmed having tea with a British icon, Paddington Bear, in a delightful sketch shown on a big screen at her jubilee concert.
In the two-and-a-half minute sketch, kept secret even from her close family, Paddington shows the queen what he hides underneath his large hat ― his beloved marmalade sandwiches.
The queen grins then confides: “So do I” and opens her handbag removing her own sandwich. “I keep mine in here.”
A butler announces the platinum party is about to begin and in a warm voice, Paddington turns to the queen and says: “Happy Jubilee Ma'am, and thank you...for everything,” to which she replies: “That's very kind.”
During the extended public holiday weekend, she was seen cutting a cake
The queen managed to watch the military’s Trooping the Colour ceremony but it was rumoured that she was too tired to attend the finale events of a large celebrity-attended carnival down The Mall, celebrating seven decades of her rule.
But towards the end the distinct sovereign’s flag was hoisted above Buckingham Palace and minutes later the queen appeared on the balcony in a striking green dress accompanied by her son Charles, grandson Prince William and great-grandson Prince George.
As the national anthem of “God Save Our Queen” was played, the message of the continuity through the generations was clear. The applause and cheers were rapturous.
Final public event
Tired but elated, she retired to Windsor only to make a surprise appearance with her daughter Princess Anne on 15 July to open a hospice a short drive away in Maidenhead.
The sun shone as did the Queen’s smile, chatting to staff and terminally ill patients before drawing a small curtain to reveal a plaque at Thames Hospice celebrating the last ever of her thousands of official openings.
In early August she flew up to Balmoral, her traditional summer retreat where she could freely roam the Scottish Highlands.
Final act as queen
But her strength was ebbing away and Buckingham Palace let it be known that she would receive the next prime minister at Balmoral rather than in London.
Using a walking stick, with her disarming smile, Queen Elizabeth welcomed her 15th prime minister on Tuesday, the audience officially allowing Liz Truss to take on the vital duties of government.
It was a final act of duty that had immensely important constitutional implications, giving Ms Truss enough time to appoint a Cabinet approved by the sovereign to begin Britain’s fight against the brewing economic storm.