King Charles III evoked memories Sunday of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II, as she delivered her first Christmas message as monarch in a speech that also paid tribute to the “selfless dedication” of British public service workers, many of the which are fighting with the government over salary.
Charles, 74, also empathized in the pre-recorded message with people struggling to make ends meet “at a time of great anxiety and difficulty.” Like other parts of the world, the UK is grappling with high inflation which has caused a cost of living crisis for many families.
The king’s first remarks, however, recalled his mother, who died in September at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne.
“Christmas is a particularly touching time for all of us who have lost loved ones,” said Charles. “We feel their absence at every familiar turn of the season and remember them in every beloved tradition.”
Charles immediately succeeded to the throne upon the death of the queen. His coronation ceremony is scheduled for May.
For her televised Christmas message, she wore a navy suit. Unlike Elizabeth, who often sat at a desk giving her annual speech, Charles stood beside a Christmas tree in St George’s Chapel, a church in the grounds of Windsor Castle where his mother and father were buried, Prince Philip.
Charles said he shared with his mother “a belief in the extraordinary ability of each person to touch, with kindness and compassion, the lives of others and to shine a light on the world around them.”
“The essence of our community and the very foundation of our society” can be witnessed in “health and social care professionals and teachers and indeed all public service workers whose skills and commitment are at the core of our communities” , said the king .
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Strikes this month by nurses, ambulance crews, teachers, postal workers and train drivers have put British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government under pressure. Opinion polls show a high level of support for workers, especially nurses. The unions are asking for wage increases in line with inflation, which was 10.7% in November.
Soaring food and energy prices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have created financial strain for many individuals and families.
Talking about the video shooting of food banks and other charities, Charles expressed sympathy for “those back home finding ways to pay their bills and keep their families fed and warm.”
Charles has also reached out to people of other faiths in the UK and across the British Commonwealth, saying the significance of the birth of Jesus Christ crosses “the boundaries of faith and belief”.
Charles believes the monarchy can help unite his country’s increasingly diverse ethnic groups and faiths. It is part of his effort to demonstrate that the institution still has relevance.
The six-minute message concluded with a plea to heed the “eternal light” which Charles said was a key aspect of Elizabeth’s faith in God and in people.
“So whatever faith you have or if you don’t, 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,” he said.
The king made no reference to the recent uproar this month Netflix documentary series on the acrimonious separation from the royal family that accompanied son Prince Harry and daughter-in-law Meghan’s decision to step back from royal duties and move across the Atlantic Ocean.
Video footage accompanying the Christmas message showed members of the royal family working at official events. Harry and Meghan have not appeared, nor have they been Prince Andrewwho was stripped of his honorary military titles and removed as a royal worker for his friendship with notorious US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Andrew did, however, join Charles and other senior royals for a Christmas morning walk to a church located near the Sandringham family estate in Norfolk County, England.
The king and his wife, queen consort Camilla, led family members to a service at the church of St. Mary Magdalene. They included Prince William, Charles’ eldest son and heir to the throne, and William’s wife Kate, and the couple’s three children, Prince George, 9, Princess Charlotte, 7, and Prince Louis, 4.
Joining them on the walk were Charles and Andrew’s younger brother, Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie.
After the family entered the church, congregants sang “God Save the King” followed by the Christmas hymn “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”
Sandringham has been the private country home of four generations of British monarchs for more than 160 years, but this was the royal family’s first Christmas since 2019, according to the British news agency the Press Association.
Elizabeth spent her last two Christmases at Windsor Castle due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Crowds lined the streets near Sandringham to greet the royal family on Sunday for their return to festive tradition.
“It will be in King Charles’ thoughts about his mother, about his legacy. They’ll think about it at Christmas,” said John Loughrey, 67, who lives in south London and camped out overnight to be first in line. “It’s going to be a sad time and a happy one for them. to be.”