Queen Elizabeth II gives tribute to Prince Philip in first Christmas speech without him

Queen Elizabeth II gave her first Christmas speech since the death of her husband, Prince Philip, earlier this year.

Her annual Christmas broadcast started with an excerpt of a speech she gave in 1997 at Banqueting House, in honor of her Golden Wedding Anniversary with Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. The speech was filmed in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, where the queen is spending the holiday.

“Although it’s a time of great happiness and good cheer for many, Christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones,” the queen’s speech began. “This year, especially, I understand why.”

Beside Elizabeth lay a photograph of her with Philip, taken for their diamond wedding anniversary (2007) in Broadlands, Hampshire.

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She’s found comfort in the tributes to Philip’s life and work from all over the world. In a separate announcement, the queen said a Service of Thanksgiving honoring Philip will happen next spring at Westminster Abbey.

“His sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation – were all irrepressible,” she said during the speech. “That mischievous, enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him.”

She knows, however, “he would want us to enjoy Christmas.”

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Queen Elizabeth II records her annual Christmas broadcast in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on Dec. 23, in Windsor, England. The photograph on the desk is of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, taken in 2007 at Broadlands, Hampshire, to mark their Diamond Wedding Anniversary.

Philip died in April, two months shy of his 100th birthday. Coronavirus restrictions in place at the time of his funeral meant that Elizabeth sat alone – a poignant symbol of how she would spend her life going forward as a widow.

She donned an embossed wool shift dress in Christmas red, an Angela Kelly piece, for the Christmas broadcast, and the sapphire chrysanthemum brooch she wore on her honeymoon and in photographs celebrating her diamond wedding anniversary.

Elizabeth – like her speech last year – also touched on the COVID-19 pandemic. “While COVID again means we can’t celebrate quite as we may have wished, we can still enjoy the many happy traditions,” she said. But this year the speech primarily focused on Philip and his legacy, including the creation of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and his pioneering environmental work which Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla, and Prince William and Duchess Kate have carried on.

She’s looking forward to the Commonwealth Games next summer as well as her Platinum Jubilee year – marking her historic 70 years on the throne – which begins in February.

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The queen hopes 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 70 years – social, scientific and cultural – and also to look ahead with confidence.”

She encouraged people to think of Christmas as a time to think of the child within all of us.

“Adults, when weighed down with worries, sometimes fail to see the joy in simple things, where children do not,” she says. “And for me and my family, even with one familiar laugh missing this year, there will be joy in Christmas, as we have the chance to reminisce, and see anew the wonder of the festive season through the eyes of our young children, of whom we were delighted to welcome four more this year.”

For a second year, Elizabeth is coping with a less-than-ideal Christmas celebration. In addition to no Philip, she’ll now face the absence of her only daughter, Princess Anne, the Princess Royal.

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Buckingham Palace confirmed Thursday that Anne’s husband, Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, 66, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating with Anne, 71. The couple live at Gatcombe Park, an estate about 70 miles south of Windsor Castle.

Neither will be joining her at the castle for a Christmas lunch, scaled back from the usual spread at the queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk, where the royal family typically spends the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, at least until the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020.

Nor will the extended family gather around the TV at the castle with the queen to watch the Christmas broadcast.

However, her son and heir, Prince Charles, and his wife, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, will join her at the castle for lunch, the Prince of Wales’ office at Clarence House confirmed.

Media reports in the U.K. said that the queen’s two other sons and their families will be at the castle, too, but Buckingham Palace declined to confirm that.

The queen has long embraced the festive family get-together at Christmas at Sandringham. But this year’s surge in the omicron variant of the virus in the U.K. quashed her plans to return to the sprawling private estate in 2021.

At 95, the queen is in generally good health, but her subjects were alarmed in October when the palace announced she had spent the night in the hospital. She ultimately canceled multiple engagements, though has gradually resumed activity. Many have been virtual encounters from Windsor Castle.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Queen Elizabeth Windsor Castle Christmas speech honors Prince Philip