Reflective, direct and personal - the Queen's Christmas message

Tim Ewart

Former Royal Editor

Credit: PA Wire

The extraordinary field of ceramic poppies that surrounded the Tower of London is one of the abiding images if 2014. The Queen was among the millions of visitors and in her Christmas message she recalls that the only possible reaction to seeing and walking among the poppies was silence.

She was in reflective mood this Christmas, choosing reconciliation as her theme and taking a quite direct personal approach. "Christ's example," she said, "has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith, or none."

The August centenary of the beginning of World War One is central to the message. There are photographs of British and German soldiers meeting in a brief truce over Christmas in 1914. The Queen, visibly moved, said that German soldiers sang Silent Night, a "reminder to us all that even in the unlikeliest of places hope can still be found."

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The Queen does not travel far afield these days and Christmas recollections of visits to the furthest corners of the Commonwealth are a thing of the past. But she did go to Northern Ireland this year and toured Belfast's old Crumlin Road jail, a symbol of past division. It stands now, the Queen said, as a reminder of what is possible when people reach out to one another.

There was a mention, too, of division in Scotland, where the recent referendum on independence, said the Queen, left many feeling great disappointment while others felt great relief. "Bridging these differences will take time."

The Queen will turn 89 next April, around the time the Duchess of Cambridge is due to give her a fourth great grandchild. Later in the year, in September, she will become the longest reigning monarch in British history. Her life may be conducted at a gentler pace, her mood more reflective, but the events are no less significant.