The Queen has used her Christmas Day message to reassure anyone struggling without friends and family this year that they “are not alone”.
She said what many people want “for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand” – but “even on the darkest nights there is hope in the new dawn”.
The 94-year-old praised acts of kindness, saying the pandemic “brought us closer” despite causing hardship.
The Queen, like so many, is spending the day apart from her family.
“Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer,” the monarch said in the broadcast, adding that the Royal Family has been “inspired” by people volunteering in their communities.
“In the United Kingdom and around the world, people have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year, and I am so proud and moved by this quiet, indomitable spirit.”
She lamented that “people of all faiths have been unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals”, but said “we need life to go on”.
The Queen highlighted Diwali celebrations last month in Windsor – where she is spending Christmas with the Duke of Edinburgh for the first time in decades – as an example of “joyous moments of hope and unity despite social distancing”.
“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 really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand,” she added.
“If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”
She gave particular thanks to young people, to frontline workers, and to “good Samaritans [who] have emerged across society, showing care and respect for all”.
“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.
Referring to the centenary of the Unknown Warrior’s burial in Westminster Abbey, she said: “The Unknown Warrior was not exceptional, that’s the point. He represents millions like him who, throughout our history, have put the lives of others above their own and will be doing so today.
“For me, this is a source of enduring hope in difficult and unpredictable times.”
This year’s message was recorded in mid-December with a pared-back film crew and in accordance with government guidance.
She added: “Let the light of Christmas, the spirit of selflessness, love and above all, hope, guide us in the times ahead.”
The Queen and Prince Philip, 99, have been living at Windsor Castle during the pandemic with a small household staff.
It is thought to be the first year the couple have not spent Christmas at their Sandringham home since the mid-1980s.
The Royal Family usually spends Christmas Day together, but will not visit each other this year because of coronavirus restrictions.
The Queen also worshipped privately rather than attending a church service, as she usually does – in order, it is understood, to avoid crowds of well-wishers congregating.
On Christmas Day, the Royal Family tweeted a video of St George’s Chapel choir singing.
? ? Wishing all our followers a very Merry Christmas!
? St George’s Chapel choir sing ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’.
The Chapel, situated in the grounds of Windsor Castle, has a unique Royal history. Find out more: https://t.co/zB4IbaTcbi pic.twitter.com/dYDvfKW4Cx
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) December 25, 2020