Queen’s Christmas speech calls for reconciliation

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THE Queen used her Christmas Day broadcast yesterday to highlight the importance of reconciliation between opposing sides, including those involved in the independence referendum.

September’s vote proved divisive, polarising people in many parts of Scotland, from the Hebrides to the big cities.

The Queen Elizabeth delivers her Christmas Day speech at Buckingham Palace, London. Picture: PA

The Queen Elizabeth delivers her Christmas Day speech at Buckingham Palace, London. Picture: PA

In her annual address to the nation, the Queen said: In Scotland after the referendum, many felt great disappointment, while others felt great relief; and bridging these differences will take time.”

The head of state also talked about the poignant moment when First World War forces put aside their differences and met in no-man’s land during the Christmas truce of 1914.

And she spoke with personal conviction about her faith and how Christ’s example had taught her to “respect and value all people of whatever faith or none”.

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The Queen began by talking about a sculpture of a man and woman embracing by Josefina de Vasconcellos called Reconciliation – the theme of her Christmas broadcast.

Casts of the artwork can be found in the ruins of Coventry cathedral and at sites in Belfast and Berlin, said the Queen. The artist was inspired by a woman’s search across Europe on foot for her husband after the Second World War.

The Queen said: “The benefits of reconciliation were clear to see when I visited Belfast in June.

“While my tour of the set of Game Of Thrones may have gained most attention, my visit to the Crumlin Road jail will remain vividly in my mind.

“What was once a prison during the Troubles is now a place of hope and fresh purpose; a reminder of what is possible, when people reach out to one another, rather like the couple in the sculpture.”

As the Queen spoke, footage of the visit was shown, including the monarch walking through the famous building with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness – both of whom spent time in its cells in the 1970s or 1980s.

The Queen recorded her Christmas message seated next to a table displaying separate pictures of her grandparents, George V and Queen Mary, and an embossed brass box.

The box was a Christmas Day gift for those serving overseas in the First World War in 1914, and filled with a variety of gifts, from tobacco to chocolate.

During that first Christmas of the war, some soldiers from both sides laid down their weapons and met to play football. The Queen said: “Without any instruction or command, the shooting stopped and German and British soldiers met in No Man’s Land. Photographs were taken and gifts exchanged. It was a Christmas truce.”

She described sport as a “wonderful way of bringing together people and nations” and this year’s Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow was highlighted as an example of this.

There was film of the opening ceremony, then the Prince of Wales was seen meeting competitors beside a boxing ring ,and Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were shown chatting to a cyclist in the velodrome.

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