Queen remembers 'mischievous twinkle' of Prince Philip in emotional Christmas message

ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship reports on the Queen's Christmas - from a moving message to an intimate church service with family

The Queen has spoken movingly of her late husband, Prince Philip, on the first Christmas she has spent without him.

Christmastime, she said, “can be hard for those who have lost loved ones” and added that “this year, especially, I understand why”.

The Queen said the family had “felt his presence” as they got ready for Christmas this year and she noted how they would miss one “familiar laugh” in the room this year.

She also spoke of her husband’s “mischevious, enquiring twinkle” which was “as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him”.

The passing of Prince Philip in April, after 73 years of marriage, meant that the Queen’s traditional Christmas message – broadcast to the nation and the Commonwealth as usual at 3pm – was unusually personal.

Life, said the Queen, “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.”

She spoke of how Covid had again meant “we can’t celebrate quite as we would have wished” but that people can still enjoy the “many happy traditions” of Christmas.

Watch the Queen's Christmas message in full

The Queen said that families treasure the Christmas routines and listed the “singing of carols…decorating the tree, giving and receiving presents, or watching a favourite film where we already know the ending”.

She recorded her message in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, where on the table in front of her was a solitary photograph of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in a frame.

It was the picture they had taken on their Diamond Wedding anniversary in 2007 in the grounds of the Broadlands estate in Hampshire, where they spent their honeymoon.

In other years she's had photographs of other members of her family there but this year, there was just the one of her and the Duke.

In the broadcast, she was wearing the same brooch – a sapphire and chrysanthemum - which she wore with her late husband in the photos from 1947 and 2007.

The Queen and Prince Philip in 2007 at the Broadlands in Hampshire. Credit: PA
Princess Elizabeth enjoying a stroll with her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, on the Broadlands estate in November 1947. Credit: PA

Prince Philip, who died at the age of 99, was, said the widow Queen, always mindful of the “sense of passing the baton” and she spoke proudly of the success of his Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme which he set up in 1956.

“It remains an astonishing success, grounded in his faith in the future.”

Just as she told world leaders at the COP26 climate change summit, the Queen again spoke of how she is “proud beyond words” that Prince Philip’s pioneering work on protecting the environment has been “taken on and magnified by our eldest son, Charles, and his eldest son, William – admirably supported by Camilla and Catherine”.

She said that she was “delighted to welcome” four more children into the family this year which is a reminder to us all to “see anew the wonder of the festive season through the eyes of our young children”.

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Her new great-grandchildren are Prince Eugenie’s son August Brooksbank, Zara Tindall’s son Lucas, Harry and Meghan’s daughter Lilibet and Princess Beatrice’s daughter Sienna Mapelli Mozzi.

Their births were, said the Queen, a moment to reflect how the Christmas story teaches us that “in the birth of a child, there is a new dawn with endless potential."

There was no specific mention of other family members like the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, or Prince Andrew and nor did they appear in any of the videos.

A royal source said the pictures in the broadcast were of those “working members of the Royal Family”, which Harry, Meghan and Andrew are not.

The message was recorded and produced this year by ITN, as the filming moves between the main broadcasters every two years.

Charles and Camilla arrive at Windsor for Christmas.

The Queen also looked forward in her Christmas message to the Platinum Jubilee next year.

She will become the first British Monarch to celebrate reigning for 70 years.

That anniversary will be reached on February 6, the day she became Queen in 1952 upon the death of her father King George VI.

“I hope it will be an opportunity for people everywhere to enjoy a sense of togetherness; a chance to give thanks for the enormous changes of the last seventy years – social, scientific and cultural”, she said.

But on the past year, following the death of Prince Philip, the Queen said: “For me and my family, even with one familiar laugh missing this year, there will be joy in Christmas”.