The U.K. is currently embroiled in a major political controversy as the newly-elected Conservative government works to finalize the country’s departure from the European Union. The decision to leave the E.U., known as Brexit, has proved to be one of the country’s more controversial political changes, as the decision led to years of fierce government debate and a historical election in which the Conservative Party gained near-total control of the government for the first time in decades. It is in this context, alongside numerous personal issues relating to the royal family, that Queen Elizabeth II will deliver her yearly Christmas message to the nation.
Though the message is prerecorded, it will not broadcast until tomorrow, Christmas Day. However, Buckingham Palace released some excerpts from the transcript, revealing that the queen will refer to 2019 as a “quite bumpy” year. It’s not clear as of yet what exactly the queen is referring to, but there are a number of reasons why the year may have felt rough for the queen. The excerpts also reveal that the queen will mention the fact that this year is the 75th anniversary of D-Day and will deliver a general theme highlighting the importance of reconciliation and unity.
Early this year the queen’s husband, the 97-year-old Prince Philip was involved in a car crash that injured two women, leading him to apologize and relinquish his driver’s license, and generating a public debate about older drivers. While the royal family makes every effort to avoid getting directly involved in political matters, some U.K. government functions require the queen’s participation; for instance, this summer the newly-elected Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the queen to suspend Parliament before his request was ruled unlawful by the U.K. Supreme Court. But perhaps the most controversial event involving the royal family this year was the aftermath of a disastrous interview between Prince Andrew and the BBC, during which he failed to adequately explain the nature of his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, leading him ultimately to step down from his public duties, an extremely rare decision for a member of the royal family.
Right after the queen recorded her Christmas message, her husband was admitted to a hospital in London, where he spent four days, giving the queen a stressful end to an already-stressful year. While the queen generally does not get into specifics about political situations in her country during her Christmas address, she is likely to allude to the political turmoil that Britain underwent in 2019 and its effects on citizens. In this time of intense political conflict, the queen is likely to focus on reconciliation, stressing the importance of unity after an election that virtually guaranteed Brexit and ensured Conservative party rule for the next five years. The queen will say that “small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.”
Because the queen follows a principle of remaining neutral with respect to politics, it’s not exactly clear which specific events she is referring to by stressing the importance of mutual understanding and harmony, but it’s not hard to imagine she’s talking about Brexit, which has polarized the nation. The address will be broadcast on the BBC at 3 p.m. local time tomorrow, Christmas Day. The address was filmed in Windsor Castle, in the Green Drawing Room, as the queen sat beside family photos. Notably, Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, and their 7-month old son Archie were not present among these photos, further suggesting a rift in the royal family that has been reported in tabloids over the past several months.