The Queen has used her Christmas Day message to reassure anyone struggling without friends and family this year that they “are not alone”.
She said what many people want “for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand” – but “even on the darkest nights there is hope in the new dawn”.
The 94-year-old praised acts of kindness, saying the pandemic “brought us closer” despite causing hardship.
The Queen, like so many, is spending the day apart from her family.
“Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer,” the monarch said in the broadcast, adding that the Royal Family has been “inspired” by people volunteering in their communities.
“In the United Kingdom and around the world, people have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year, and I am so proud and moved by this quiet, indomitable spirit.”
She lamented that “people of all faiths have been unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals”, but said “we need life to go on”.
The Queen highlighted Diwali celebrations last month in Windsor – where she is spending Christmas with the Duke of Edinburgh for the first time in decades – as an example of “joyous moments of hope and unity despite social distancing”.
“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 really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand,” she added.
“If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”
She gave particular thanks to young people, to frontline workers, and to “good Samaritans [who] have emerged across society, showing care and respect for all”.
“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 said.
Referring to the centenary of the Unknown Warrior’s burial in Westminster Abbey, she said: “The Unknown Warrior was not exceptional, that’s the point. He represents millions like him who, throughout our history, have put the lives of others above their own and will be doing so today.
“For me, this is a source of enduring hope in difficult and unpredictable times.”
This year’s message was recorded in mid-December with a pared-back film crew and in accordance with government guidance.
She did not utter the words “pandemic”, “coronavirus” or “Covid-19” but they were the dominant theme of this year’s Christmas speech broadcast by the Queen.
Her words conveyed three particular messages. She spoke of the gratitude owed to all those who’d “risen magnificently to the challenges of the year”, in particular to young people, frontline workers and the “amazing achievements of modern science.”
She found hope in the actions of so many “Good Samaritans” who’d emerged across society to offer care.
There was hope too from the example of the “Unknown Warrior” buried at Westminster Abbey a century ago. He symbolised selfless duty: a source of “enduring hope” the Queen said.
And finally there was reassurance for all those who are mourning or missing friends or family. This was the most touching part of the broadcast. These were people who just wanted “a hug or a squeeze of the hand” the Queen said.
That is not language she often uses in public.
She added: “Let the light of Christmas, the spirit of selflessness, love and above all, hope, guide us in the times ahead.”
The Queen and Prince Philip, 99, have been living at Windsor Castle during the pandemic with a small household staff.
It is thought to be the first year the couple have not spent Christmas at their Sandringham home since the mid-1980s.
The Royal Family usually spends Christmas Day together, but will not visit each other this year because of coronavirus restrictions.
The Queen also worshipped privately rather than attending a church service, as she usually does – in order, it is understood, to avoid crowds of well-wishers congregating.
On Christmas Day, the Royal Family tweeted a video of St George’s Chapel choir singing.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge acknowledged those going through a particularly difficult time this year because of the pandemic, tweeting pictures of people working through the festive season.
This Christmas our thoughts are with those of you who are spending today alone, those of you who are mourning the loss of a loved one, and those of you on the frontline who are still mustering the energy to put your own lives on hold to look after the rest of us. pic.twitter.com/VvW3rV4fRz
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) December 25, 2020
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter
Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall sent their Christmas wishes on social media, telling followers, “Here’s to a better new year.”
The Queen’s address marks the end of a year that saw her go for seven months – March to October – without carrying out public engagements outside of a royal residence.
During that time, her eldest child, Prince Charles, 72, contracted coronavirus and displayed mild symptoms.
Palace sources also told the BBC that the Prince William tested positive in April – though Kensington Palace refused to comment officially.
The royals have spent some time together during the pandemic.
She was also joined by family members at a scaled-back Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph in London’s Whitehall in November.
The Christmas broadcast was the Queen’s third televised address this year, which is unusual for the monarch.
In April, as the first wave of the pandemic saw people across the country told to stay at home, she vowed that the the UK “will succeed” in its fight against the virus.
In a rallying message, she lamented the “painful sense of separation from their loved ones” that social distancing was causing people – but said it was “the right thing to do”.
The following month, in a poignant address to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, she said people’s response to the virus had filled empty streets with “love”.
In last year’s Christmas speech, she described 2019 – which saw intense political debate over Brexit and a number of personal events affecting the Royal Family – as “quite bumpy”.
She said the path is never “smooth” but “small steps” can heal divisions.
Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message will be delivered by a deepfake of the Queen this year.