One of the traditional fixtures of any Christmas Day is to see Queen Elizabeth II and her family go to church. Not this year. The coronavirus pandemic has made sure of that.
However, the queen, 94, did fulfill what is considered her most cherished Christmas Day duty. Addressing the nation – as well as the Commonwealth – on television Friday (Dec 25).
The queen, who has spent much of the year isolating at Windsor Castle with her 99-year-old husband Prince Philip, delivered a heartfelt message of hope in her Christmas address, praising the "indomitable spirit" of those who have risen "magnificently" to the challenges of the pandemic.
Seated behind a desk where the only family photo on show was a private portrait of Philip, the queen expressed sympathy for the ordeal of the past few months while also laying out hope of a return to normality.
"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.
The queen wrote her address, as she does every year, and her words are likely to have added poignancy given the upheaval many families have experienced during the pandemic, particularly in the UK, which has an official coronavirus-related death toll of just over 70,000, Europe's second-highest behind Italy.
It was recorded before the British government decided last weekend to ditch its plans for a five-day easing of coronavirus restrictions around Christmastime. In many parts of the UK, including London, people were being urged to stay at home and not meet others because of a new variant of the virus that is said to spread far easier.
"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'd really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand," she said. "If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers."
There was a strong religious theme to the address reflecting her Christian faith and the queen said the biblical story of the Good Samaritan had relevance today.
"Good Samaritans have emerged across society showing care and respect for all, regardless of gender, race or background, reminding us that each one of us is special and equal in the eyes of God," she said.
Though living a far more solitary existence, over the past few months, the queen has been a visible presence, most notably in her two televised addresses to the nation from Windsor Castle in April and May, which were partly intended to bolster people's resolve in the face of the lockdown.
Members of the royal family are spending the festive period at their respective residences this year instead of gathering at Sandringham.