Queen's Christmas speech will acknowledge 'bumpy year'
PUBLISHED: 00:01 24 December 2019 | UPDATED: 07:31 24 December 2019
The Queen will acknowledge the "bumpy" path the royal family and the nation has experienced over the past 12 months in her Christmas Day message.
During 2019, the Duke of Edinburgh was involved in a dramatic car accident, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spoke about their struggles living in the public eye and the Duke of York gave a disastrous television interview about his friendship with a convicted sex offender.
The toxic mood of the public debate around Brexit has continued throughout the past 12 months, with the issue bitterly dividing the country and parliament.
But the Queen will comment on how "small steps taken in faith and in hope" can be significant, and ultimately break down "long-held differences".
The head of state will also highlight the 75th anniversary of the Second World War D-Day landings, and how former "sworn enemies" joined together in friendly commemorations to mark the milestone in 2019.
In her Christmas Day broadcast to the nation and the Commonwealth, broadcast at 3pm on the BBC, ITV and Sky, the Queen will speak about the life of Jesus and the importance of reconciliation.
"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."
The Queen's comment is thought to be her first public reference to the personal events her family has experienced this year.
Commentators may interpret the Queen's words as indicating the past year may be one she would rather forget, like 1992 which she dubbed her "annus horribilis" after the marriages of three of her children collapsed.
In that year the Princess Royal divorced, the Duke and Duchess of York separated as did the Prince and Princess of Wales, and Windsor Castle went up in flames.
During the past 12 months, the most significant and damaging event for the monarchy was Andrew's appearance on the BBC's Newsnight programme which has left his reputation in tatters.
His attempt to explain his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein backfired and he was heavily criticised for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein's victims and little remorse over his friendship with the disgraced financier.
Andrew has stepped down from royal duties for the foreseeable future, and some commentators have suggested he may have effectively retired from public life.
Concerns have been voiced by royal watchers about Harry and Meghan who have based themselves in Canada during an extended festive break with baby son Archie.
The couple missed the Queen's pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace and will not be present for the traditional royal family gathering at the monarch's private Sandringham estate on Christmas Day.
The decision to leave the UK comes after the duke and duchess appeared in a documentary with Harry saying he and his brother the Duke of Cambridge were now "on different paths" and have "good days" and "bad days" in their relationship.
Prince Philip, aged 98, voluntarily surrendered his licence after he was involved in a car crash on the Sandringham estate in January that left two women in another vehicle injured, while a baby with them had a miraculous escape.
The duke faced criticism for taking too long to contact the occupants of the other car and for being seen driving without his seat-belt in the days that followed.
Brexit was the over-riding national issue of the year and resulted in heated debates in the Commons and ultimately led to a snap General Election in December won by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The message, produced by the BBC, was recorded in Windsor Castle's green drawing room after the election but before Philip was admitted to a private London hospital for treatment for a pre-existing but undisclosed condition.
The Queen is filmed sitting at a desk featuring photographs of her family with a large Christmas tree in the background.
One picture shows the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children - Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis - perched on and around a motorbike and side car - an image used for the couple's Christmas card.
In June, the UK hosted a major international event in Portsmouth commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day and attended by world leaders including US President Donald Trump, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
"For the seventy-fifth 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 will say 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."
Other family photographs that can been seen on the desk include the picture of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, which marked the 50th anniversary of Charles being invested as the Prince of Wales.
There is also a black and white image of the Queen's father King George VI sending a message of hope and reassurance to the British people in 1944.
The tradition of the monarch making a Christmas address began when King George V took to the airwaves from Sandringham on Christmas Day, 1932.
"I speak now from my home and my heart to you all," he began. "To men and women so cut off by the snows, the desert, or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them."
A makeshift studio had been installed at Sandringham, from where the King was to broadcast live at 3pm.
Continued by King George VI after his accession to the throne, the Queen made her first speech after the death of her father in 1952.
Sitting in the same chair, at the same desk from which the King had made his final Christmas address, which he had recorded the previous year as his health deteriorated, she said: "Each Christmas, at this time, my beloved Father broadcast a message to his people in all parts of the world.
"As he used to do, I am speaking to you from my own home, where I am spending Christmas with my family. My father and my grandfather before him worked hard all their lives to unite our peoples ever more closely, and to maintain its ideals which were so near to their hearts. I shall strive to carry on their work."
For millions, the Queen's Christmas speech still signals a time to reflect on the year that's almost passed, inspiring thoughts for others serving their country in far-flung lands, or those less-fortunate closer to home.
After enjoying a Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings - again locally-sourced - the Queen and her family watch the broadcast together, like families up and down the land.