Queen Elizabeth II described 2019 as “quite bumpy” in her traditional Christmas Day message, after a year of crises which saw Britain divided over its impending exit from the European Union and her son Prince Andrew forced to withdraw from public life.
The 93-year-old monarch, whose husband Philip is receiving treatment in hospital, will use her televised address on Wednesday to reflect on the need for reconciliation.
The royal family was swept up in scandals that included a calamitous BBC interview with the queen’s second son who tried to distance himself from American paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
The interview in which Andrew denied having sex with one of Epstein’s alleged victims was widely ridiculed and reportedly criticised within Buckingham Palace, forcing him to “step back from public duties”.
In a portion of her Christmas speech released in advance, the queen says the life of Jesus shows the importance of reconciliation.
It teaches “how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding,” she says.
“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.”
Britain endured a year of political drama linked to its delayed withdrawal from the European Union.
The queen was dragged into the saga when she approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request to suspend parliament in August – with opponents accusing him of trying to close down debate on Brexit.
The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that Johnson’s request had been unlawful.
The monarch has only symbolic power — by convention, she always follows the advice of her ministers and Johnson was widely criticised for having put her in an impossible position.
The queen’s grandson Prince Harry and his American former actress wife Meghan Markle were also in the news, speaking about their struggles living in the public eye.
Prince Harry took legal action against two tabloids in October accusing them of intercepting voicemail messages.
Meghan filed a separate case against a newspaper that published excerpts of a letter her estranged father wrote to her.
Prince Philip’s difficult year began with a car accident in which two women were injured. The police found the 98-year-old responsible but brought no charges.
Buckingham Palace has released little information about Philip’s condition since his hospitalisation on Friday for “treatment in relation to a pre-existing condition”.
“He’s alright,” Philip’s son Charles told a reporter during a visit in northern England on Monday.
“Once you get to that age things don’t work as well.”
‘Spirit of reconciliation’
The queen has remained one of Britain’s most popular figures despite the royal family’s travails.
A poll by YouGov in November showed 72 per cent of respondents had a positive opinion of the monarch.
Prince Charles’s approval was just 46 per cent.
The queen’s Christmas Day message reflects on the heroism of British forces during the D-Day landings in Normandy that turned the course of World War II in 1944.
In June she made an increasingly rare trip to abroad to attend the 75th anniversary commemorations in France.
“For the 75th 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 says in her message.
“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.”