Queen Elizabeth's 2020 address focused on the difficulties of the past several months amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis

By Stephanie Petit
December 28, 2020 10:20 AM
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Queen Elizabeth's 2020 Christmas speech
| Credit: Victoria Jones - WPA Pool/Getty

Queen Elizabeth's Christmas address is a treasured tradition — but there was something different about the broadcast this year.

The monarch, 94, gave her annual speech from Windsor Castle, where she spent Christmas for the first time since 1987 with Prince Philip due to the coronavirus pandemic preventing them from their usual visit to Sandringham to celebrate the holiday. However, it's not unusual for Queen to record her speech from Windsor.

What was odd was that the Queen usually has several photos of royal family members displayed on her desk during her speech. This year, she had just one picture: a shot of her husband, Prince Philip, in a simple oval frame.

While Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince Charles and others were not commemorated with pictures this year, footage of their work throughout 2020 was played during the broadcast. In addition, the speech featured several snaps from Kate's "Hold Still" photo project, which asked people across the U.K. to submit scenes from the coronavirus pandemic.

Last Christmas, the Queen's choice of photographs on display hinted at grandson Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepping down from their roles as senior members of the royal family, which was announced weeks later in January. While her 2019 speech mentioned welcoming Archie to the family, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex were absent from the images. Instead, the display seemed to focus on the line of succession by featuring her late father King George VI, her son and heir Prince Charles with wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, grandson Prince William and his family and a photo of husband Prince Philip.

In 2018, there were six photographs set up to pay tribute to major events of the year — one that the Queen herself called a "busy" one. The snaps celebrated two royal weddings — those of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as well as Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank — as well as Prince Louis' Christmas card debut with his family.

In addition to a throwback photo paying tribute to her father and a black and white shot of Prince Charles as a baby, the most prominent photo was a portrait released that year to celebrate Prince Charles' 70th birthday featuring both of his sons and their families.

Queen Elizabeth's 2020 address focused on the difficulties of the past several months amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

"Every year we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood —light brings hope," she began. "For Christians, Jesus is ‘the light of the world,’ but we can’t celebrate his birth today in quite the usual way.

"People of all faiths have been unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals, such as Passover, Easter, Eid, and Vaisakhi. But we need life to go on. Last month, fireworks lit up the sky around Windsor, as Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, providing joyous moments of hope and unity — despite social distancing."

Unlike in years past, the Queen didn't mention any personal details of the past year, such as Prince Harry and Meghan's exit from royal life or the wedding of her granddaughter Princess Beatrice. Instead, she made a call for hope and unity in the face of extreme difficulty.

Kate Middleton, Prince William and Queen Elizabeth on Dec. 8
| Credit: Getty

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In conclusion, she said, "The Bible tells how a star appeared in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus’s birth. Let the light of Christmas — the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope — guide us in the times ahead. It is in that spirit that I wish you a very happy Christmas."