The King has urged the public to find hope at a time of “great anxiety and hardship”, in his first Christmas broadcast. In a notable departure from tradition, His Majesty made only the briefest reference to other members of the Royal family – mentioning only the Prince and Princess of Wales by name and avoiding any acknowledgement of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. He was not surrounded by any family photographs.
Instead, he recognised the difficulties experienced by those struggling to “pay their bills and keep their families fed and warm” during the cost of living crisis, and warmly praised those who “readily respond to the plight of others”.
NHS staff, teachers and public sector workers were singled out for recognition, at a time of widespread industrial action over pay.
The King also used the message to highlight his personal commitment to the other religious faiths of a diverse Britain, and said that “whatever faith you have, or whether you have none … I believe we can find hope for the future.”
On Christmas Day, His Majesty attended the Royal family’s traditional Christmas Day church service for the first time since the death of his mother.
The 74-year-old and the Queen Consort, 75, were joined by the Prince and Princess of Wales and their children – Prince George, nine, Princess Charlotte, seven, and four-year-old Prince Louis, who greeted crowds for the first time.
Also in the walking group were the Duke of York and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
The King’s address was filmed at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, which the King noted was “so close to where my beloved mother, the late Queen, is laid to rest with my dear father”.
He thanked members of the public for their “deeply touching” messages and cards of condolence, as well as the “love and sympathy” extended by the nation to his whole family in the wake of his mother’s death on Sept 8.
“Christmas is a particularly poignant time for all of us who have lost loved ones,” he said.
“We feel their absence at every familiar turn of the season and remember them in each cherished tradition.”
In a poignant nod to the late Queen’s legacy, he added: “My mother’s belief in the power of that light was an essential part of her faith in God, but also her faith in people – and it is one which I share with my whole heart.
“It is a belief in the extraordinary ability of each person to touch, with goodness and compassion, the lives of others, and to shine a light in the world around them. This is the essence of our community and the very foundation of our society.”
Such qualities, he said, were reflected in the “selfless dedication” of the Armed Forces and emergency services who “work tirelessly to keep us all safe, and who performed so magnificently as we mourned the passing of our late Queen”.
The King also acknowledged the ongoing economic crisis as well as the conflict in Ukraine, as he added: “And at this time of great anxiety and hardship – be it for those around the world facing conflict, famine or natural disaster, or for those at home finding ways to pay their bills and keep their families fed and warm – we see it in the humanity of people throughout our nations and the Commonwealth who so readily respond to the plight of others.”
He paid tribute to the “wonderfully kind people” who donate food “or that most precious commodity of all – their time” to support those in greatest need, praising the “extraordinary work” of volunteers and charities.
It comes after Buckingham Palace revealed that the King had opted to send public donations received following the death of the Queen to a fuel poverty charity. He also made a personal donation to the Fuel Bank Foundation, the only national charity that provides emergency help for people living without heat, light and power because they cannot afford to top up pre-payment meters for electricity and gas.
Video footage of senior royals conducting engagements in all four UK nations was used to emphasise the ongoing work of the new look, slimmed down monarchy.
However, only the Prince and Princess of Wales were mentioned by name.
The King’s eldest son and daughter-in-law were shown during a visit to St Thomas Church, in Swansea, in September – their first visit to Wales since receiving their titles and an app
“Such heartfelt solidarity is the most inspiring expression of loving our neighbour as ourself,” he said. “The Prince and Princess of Wales recently visited Wales, shining a light on practical examples of this community spirit.”
Other members of the Royal family were shown at official events – from the late Queen’s 2018 visit to the RAF Club in London, to the Queen Consort handing children Paddington bears left in memory of the late monarch.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex and Princess Royal were also featured but there were no images of the Sussexes, who stepped down as working royals in 2020.
Among the collection of video clips showing the King at official events, Charles was seen wearing a Sikh rumal, or handkerchief, on his head as a mark of respect during a visit to the Guru Nanak Gurdwara, in Luton, earlier this month. He was also seen receiving condolences from the public during a walkabout outside Buckingham Palace in September.
In a clear acknowledgement of his commitment to the many faiths of multicultural Britain, he added: “Our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and gurdwaras have once again united in feeding the hungry, providing love and support throughout the year.”
The King ended the broadcast with a focus on his own Christianity as he spoke about fulfilling a “life-long wish” to visit Bethlehem in 2020 and stand close to the sacred site in the Church of the Nativity.
He said: “It meant more to me than I can possibly express to stand on that spot where, as the Bible tells us, ‘the light that has come into the world’ was born.
“While Christmas is, of course, a Christian celebration, the power of light overcoming darkness is celebrated across the boundaries of faith and belief.
“So, whatever faith you have, or whether you have none, it is in this life-giving light, and with the true humility that lies in our service to others, that I believe we can find hope for the future.
“Let us therefore celebrate it together, and cherish it always.” / info: The Telegraph