Queen Elizabeth is wishing the Commonwealth a very merry Christmas — and imparting the importance of “reconciliation.”
In her annual Christmas broadcast on Wednesday, which was filmed in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, the monarch, 93, opened with an important milestone — the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which was depicted in season 3 of The Crown.
“As a child, I never imagined that one day a man would walk on the moon. Yet this year we marked the fiftieth anniversary of the famous Apollo 11 mission,” she said. “As those historic pictures were beamed back to earth, millions of us sat transfixed to our television screens, as we watched Neil Armstrong taking a small step for man and a giant leap for mankind — and, indeed, for womankind. It’s a reminder for us all that giant leaps often start with small steps.”
In the seventh episode of season 3 of The Crown, entitled “Moondust,” the Queen welcomes astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the palace following their journey to the moon. Queen Elizabeth (played by Olivia Colman in The Crown) has had a lifelong fascination with space travel, and her husband Philip was always keen on innovation and science. She even had a picture of her meeting with the Apollo 11 astronauts at Buckingham Palace in 1970 displayed on her desk during the broadcast.
She also noted the 75th anniversary of D-Day, stating that after the battle, “in the true spirit of reconciliation, those who had formerly been sworn enemies came together in friendly commemorations . . . putting past differences behind them.”
Wearing a royal blue cashmere dress by her go-to dresser, Angela Kelly, the Queen accessorized her look with the diamond-and-sapphire Prince Albert brooch, which was given by Albert to Queen Victoria in 1840 on the eve of their wedding. Speaking about the life of Jesus and the importance of reconciliation, she said, “how many small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.
The monarch also gave a special shout-out to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s 7-month-old son Archie. The royal parents opted to skip the Queen’s Christmas celebration in Sandringham this year so they could spend the holiday as a new family in Canada with Meghan’s mom, Doria Ragland.
“Two hundred years on from the birth of my great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria, Prince Philip and I have been delighted to welcome our eighth great grandchild into our family,” she said.
“Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child: a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem. But in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.”
The Queen then spoke of the past year, which she admits has been a trying one.
“Many of us already try to follow in his footsteps. The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of difference,” she said.
Her speech comes just weeks after her son Prince Andrew’s announcement that he has quit public duties amid his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein. The fallout from Andrew’s disastrous BBC interview about his friendship with the convicted sex offender saw his official royal role collapse to almost nothing in a matter of days. He was removed from his hundreds of charitable patronages and his office was forced out of Buckingham Palace.
The decision “shows that the royals can move very swiftly and very ruthlessly,” royal historian Robert Lacey tells PEOPLE.
But the Queen has made sure that her personal support remains with her son. He accompanied her on horseback with two escorts on Nov. 22 — something she would know would likely be captured by photographers and send a signal that, despite her decision to ask him to withdrawn from public work on her behalf, she still stands by him. He also attended his mother’s annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace last week.
The Queen also included sweet tokens of her family in the broadcast. On a table within view of the camera is a portrait of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall commemorating the 50th anniversary of Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales; a family portrait of Prince William, Kate Middleton and their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis; a photo of Prince Philip from the Queen’s personal collection; and a vintage photo of the Queen with the Apollo 11 astronauts at Buckingham Palace in 1970.
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Queen Elizabeth‘s father King George VI started the Christmas address tradition in 1932 over the radio. She delivered her first Christmas address via radio in 1952 and via television in 1957.
The royal family gathered for church services in the English countryside on Wednesday morning. After church, they walked to the Queen’s Sandringham Estate for a lunch of roast turkey followed by steamed fruit pudding, before they all sat down to watch the Queen’s annual televised address to the nation.