Queen Elizabeth has used her Christmas message to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh after 70 years of support on her official duties.
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The Queen praised Prince Philip’s sense of humour as she also paid tribute to the “powerful identities” of London and Manchester after both cities were hit by terrorist atrocities in 2017.
In her Christmas address to the country, the Queen said their community spirit “shone through over the past 12 months in the face of appalling attacks”.
Hundreds of well-wishers gathered outside Sandringham Church to greet the Queen after the morning service and see Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiance, join the royal family at Christmas for the first time.
Prince William and his wife, Kate, who is expected to give birth to the couple’s third child in the spring, also attended.
The American actress and activist gave a curtsey as she met the Queen for the first time on a public engagement.
Crowds outside the church were larger than usual, in part because of Ms Markle’s appearance, but also because the Queen was absent last year due to a heavy cold.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who is 96, walked back to Sandringham with other royals for their private Christmas lunch, while the Queen opted to be driven.
Later, in her address, the Queen reflected on the theme of ‘home’, describing it as a place of “warmth, familiarity and love” that pulls on families who share in its “timeless simplicity”.
“This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past 12 months in the face of appalling attacks,” the Queen said in her tribute to the victims of terrorism.
She said it was a “privilege” to visit young survivors of the attack on a Manchester concert hall as they were recovering from the blast which claimed 22 lives.
“I describe that hospital visit as a ‘privilege’ because the patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience,” she said.
After he retired from scheduled official duties earlier this year, and in the year they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary, Her Majesty thanked Prince Philip for his “support and unique sense of humor.”
In his Christmas sermon at the Vatican, Pope Francis spoke of world conflict being reflected “in the faces of little children”, and appealed for a two-state solution in the Holy Land.
In his traditional ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing and address on Christmas Eve, the Pope told faithful gathered in St Peter’s Basilica that “the winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline.”
The pontiff said children in the Middle East “continue to suffer because of growing tension between Israelis and Palestinians,” while Syria remains “marked by war” and ongoing conflict in Yemen “has been largely forgotten.”
He offered a prayer that “confrontation may be overcome on the Korean Peninsula.”