Queen praises nation for ‘rising magnificently’ to challenges of 2020

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Christmas message singles out young people for special praise, and speaks of ‘hope in the new dawn’

The Queen has spoken of her great pride in the “quiet, indomitable” spirit of those who have “risen magnificently” to the challenges of 2020 in a Christmas address that stressed: “We need life to go on.”

In a message capturing the vicissitudes visited on the nation and the world through the “difficult and unpredictable” times of pandemic, she noted: “Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer.”

She spoke of “hope in the new dawn”, and singled out young people for special praise.

But she also spoke directly to those for whom “this time of year will be tinged with sadness: some mourning the loss of those dear to them, and others missing friends and family members distanced for safety, when all they’d really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand.”

Herself sheltered at Windsor Castle with the Duke of Edinburgh, and separated from the rest of her own family who normally spend Christmas together at Sandringham, the Queen told those suffering loneliness or loss: “You are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”

The broadcast was pre-recorded in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, and followed medical advice, with the three PPE-wearing BBC camera crew allowed in to the room observing distance protocols.

A photograph of Prince Philip was placed prominently on the Queen’s desk. The couple celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November.

The pandemic had seen people of all faiths “unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals, such as Passover, Easter, Eid and Vaisakhi. But we need life to go on,” the Queen said.

She and her family had been inspired by stories of those volunteering in their communities.

“In the United Kingdom and around the world, people have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year, and 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.”

There was also a special mention for nursing staff who, like the nursing pioneers Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale, had “shone a light of hope across the world,” she said. The nation owed a “debt of gratitude” to the frontline staff that “still shine that lamp for us – supported by the amazing achievements of modern science,” she added.

“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.”

Drawing on her own Christian faith, she referenced the parable of the Good Samaritan as a “wonderful story of kindness” still relevant today, and witnessed in those who had emerged across society “showing care and respect for all, regardless of gender, race or background.”.

She had found personal inspiration, too, in the centenary commemorations of the Unknown Warrior, who as a symbol of “selfless duty and ultimate sacrifice” was, for her, a “source of enduring hope in difficult and unpredictable times”.

She concluded her message with a reference to the birth of Jesus, and the star guiding the shepherds and wise men. “Let the light of Christmas – the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope – guide us in the times ahead,” she said.

The Queen chose to wear a diamond and mother of pearl shell brooch for the broadcast, which was designed by Lord Courtauld-Thomson in 1919 and left to the Queen Mother in 1944 by his sister. The Queen Mother wore it throughout her lifetime, including on her 100th birthday, and the Queen wore it on her diamond jubilee.

A number of images from the Hold Still photographic exhibition, spearheaded by the Duchess of Cambridge, were featured. They included those of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who raised almost £40m for NHS charities by walking laps of his garden ahead of his 100th birthday, and five-year-old Tony Hudgell, who walked 10km on prosthetic legs to raise more than £1m for the Evelina London Children’s hospital.

The chart-topping Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir performed the carol Joy to the World, from Windsor Castle at the close of the annual address. Their single A Bridge Over You was Christmas No 1 in 2015 after a neck-and-neck race with Justin Bieber’s hit Love Yourself, when he urged his fans to download their track.

The choir were kept in the dark about their appearance in the Christmas broadcast, only told to learn the carol and meet up at their regular rehearsal space before their mission was revealed.

The guardian 

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