Queen Elizabeth Delivers Annual Christmas Speech amid COVID-19 Crisis: 'We Need Life to Go On'
Watching the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day is a holiday tradition shared in many homes around the world
Queen Elizabeth honored one of her most steadfast traditions on Friday with her annual “Queen’s Speech” on Christmas. This year's 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, 94, didn't mention any personal details of the past year, such as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle'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.
"Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer. Across the Commonwealth, my family and I have been inspired by stories of people volunteering in their communities, helping those in need," she continued.
"This year, we celebrated International Nurses’ Day, on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. As with other nursing pioneers like Mary Seacole, Florence Nightingale shone a lamp of hope across the world," she said. "Today, our front-line services still shine that lamp for us - supported by the amazing achievements of modern science - and we owe them a debt of gratitude. 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."
She also drew heavily on the strength she derives from her deep faith, which has helped her navigate the difficulties of life during the global pandemic. Those who know her say she misses the community feel of going to church with friends and family.
"The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship," she said.
"Of course, for many, 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. If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers," she continued.
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."
The Queen's speech was filmed in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle — the same room where her great-grandson Archie's royal christening photos were taken and where Harry and Meghan's official royal wedding photos were also taken. Medical advice was followed and the only people allowed in the room were two cameramen and one other member of the crew. Distance protocols were followed and suitable PPE worn.
Wearing a deep purple dress by her go-to dresser, Angela Kelly, she accessorized the look with The Queen Mother's Shell Brooch, which features a shell motif in diamonds studded with a single round pearl. Queen Elizabeth's mother wore the brooch throughout her lifetime, and the Queen has worn the brooch several times.
The Queen typically has a variety of personal family photos displayed on her desk during her speech, but this year she only had one: a photograph of her husband, Prince Philip, from her private collection.
Watching the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day is a holiday tradition shared in many homes around the world and one that has stood the test of time. Queen Elizabeth‘s father King George VI started the Christmas address tradition in 1932 over the radio. She delivered her first Christmas address via radio in 1952 and via television in 1957 at age 26, just months after the death of her before and before her coronation.
Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!
The Queen is breaking with tradition this year as she rings in Christmas at Windsor Castle instead of at Sandringham House in Norfolk. After careful consideration, the monarch and her husband, Prince Philip, 99, made the decision to celebrate the holiday season at Windsor Castle, where they have spent much of the year isolating amid the pandemic.