The Queen has used her Christmas message to pay a deeply moving tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, describing how his “mischievous, enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him”.
In an emotional and heartfelt address, the 95-year-old explained how her and the rest of the family have “readied” themselves for their first Christmas without Prince Philip where his “familiar laugh” would be sadly missed.
The Christmas message featured footage of all the most well-known working royals, but there was no reference to her middle son, Prince Andrew, or the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, the trio having stepped back from royal duties.
There was, however a mention of Lilibet, the Sussexes’ daughter, as one of four great-grandchildren born in 2021.
Recalling in the most personal terms what she loved about her late husband most, she said: “His sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation were all irrepressible.
“That mischievous, enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him.
“But life of course consists of final partings as well as first meetings and as much as I and my family miss him I know he would want us to enjoy Christmas.
“We felt his presence and we like many around the world readied ourselves for Christmas”.
Thanking the many well-wishers who sent their condolences following his death in April, she said she appreciated how difficult Christmas can be for many.
“Although it’s a time of great happiness and good cheer for many, Christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones,” she said.
“This year especially I understand why.
“But for me in the months since the death of my beloved Philip I have drawn great comfort from the warmth and affection of the many tributes to his life and work from around the country, the Commonwealth and the world.”
The message started with a clip of one of the most famous speeches the Queen made about her husband on their Golden Wedding anniversary where she described him as her “strength and stay”.
The festive address was filmed last week in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.
On the desk next to her is a single photograph of her and Prince Philip taken in 2007 at Broadlands, once the home of Philip’s uncle Lord Mountbatten, and where they spent part of their honeymoon.
The photo was taken to mark their Diamond wedding anniversary and recreated a picture taken on their honeymoon in 1947.
The Queen, dressed in bright red, is also wearing the same sapphire chrysanthemum brooch that she wore in both photographs.
While it was much more personal than previous years, her address also reflected on the constraints that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on many, and how people can at least draw comfort from coming together with family this year.
She said: “While COVID again means we can’t celebrate quite as we may have wished, we can still enjoy the many happy traditions, be it the singing of carols, as long as the tune is well known, decorating the tree, giving and receiving presents or watching a favourite film where we already know the ending.
“It’s no surprise that families so often treasure their Christmas routines.
“We see our own children and their families embrace the roles, traditions and values that means so much to us as these are passed from one generation to the next sometimes being updated for changing times.
“I see it in my own family and it is a source of great happiness.”
This week it was announced that the Queen has agreed to a thanksgiving service for Prince Philip in spring next year that will be attended by charities he set up and supported.
On his legacy, she said: “Prince Phillip was always mindful of this sense of the passing the baton, that’s why he created the Duke of Edinburgh’s award which offers young people throughout the commonwealth and beyond the chance of exploration and adventure.
“It remains an astonishing success grounded in his faith in the future. He was also an early champion of taking seriously our stewardship of the environment and I’m proud beyond words that his pioneering work has been taken on and magnified by our eldest son Charles and his eldest son William.
“Admirably supported by Camilla and Catherine most recently at the COP climate change summit in Glasgow”.
She also used the opportunity to talk about another enormous milestone that she will celebrate next year, her Platinum Jubilee.
“February just six weeks from now will see the start of my personal Jubilee year which I hope will be an opportunity for people everywhere to enjoy a sense togetherness, a chance to give thanks for the enormous changes of the last 70 years, social, scientific and cultural and also to look ahead with confidence,” she said.
The Queen, after deciding to spend Christmas at Windsor instead of Sandringham, was joined by a small number of family members.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their two children, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester all attended a service at St George’s chapel.
The Queen didn’t attend herself, instead taking the personal decision to mark the day privately with prayers.