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U.K. queen gives somber Christmas broadcast

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II delivered a somber Christmas broadcast, acknowledging how the economic crisis has cast a shadow over the traditional festive season and calling for people to show courage in the tough times ahead.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II stands in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace after recording her Christmas Day message. She taped the broadcast on Monday.John Stillwell / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

LONDON — Britain's Queen Elizabeth II delivered a somber Christmas broadcast Thursday, acknowledging how the economic crisis has cast a shadow over the traditional festive season and calling for people to show courage in the tough times ahead.

The sober tone was in sharp contrast to last year's address when the monarch opined about the value of a happy family and the importance of helping the disadvantaged.

Britain has taken a significant hit in the global economic downturn with the collapse of several venerable retail icons such as Woolworths, unemployment nearing the two million mark and the value of the British pound dropping to a record low against the dollar.

"Christmas is a time for celebration, but this year it is a more somber occasion for many," the 82-year-old monarch said in the prerecorded message from Buckingham Palace's Music Room.

Surrounded by photos
In this year's address, she stood in front of a grand piano covered with photographs of Prince Charles, Princes William and Harry and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played the piano for the queen earlier this month.

"Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain and, naturally, give rise to feelings of insecurity," the queen said. "People are touched by events which have their roots far across the world. Whether it is the global economy or violence in a distant land, the effects can be keenly felt at home."

The queen wore a beige dress and a three-stringed pearl necklace — her favorite piece of jewelry given to her by her grandfather, George V — and a heart-shaped brooch inherited from Queen Mary. The brooch is set with part of the Cullinan diamond.

The annual broadcast is one of the only times the queen — Britain's oldest reigning monarch — publicly voices her own opinion without government consultation.

Her first televised broadcast was in 1957.

Tribute to kin
In this year's message, she also paid tribute to her family.

Footage shown in the Christmas broadcast includes black and white footage of a young dark-haired Elizabeth playing with a smiling Prince Charles when he was 1. The images were shot in 1949 and show Charles playing with a series of toys, including a small xylophone and glass globe.

The old footage then shifts to Prince Charles today — showing pictures of Charles presenting his son William with his Royal Air Force wings at a ceremony in April.

"Sixty years ago, he (Charles) was baptized here in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace," she said, praising her son's charity work to help the young and disadvantaged.

"There are those who use their prosperity or good fortune for the benefit of others whether they number among the great philanthropists or are people who, with whatever they have, simply have a desire to help those less fortunate than themselves."

Praise for troops
The queen also praised British troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The broadcast shows footage of the queen visiting an army bomb-disposal officer who lost an arm and a leg in Iraq in 2005.

Britain has lost 176 troops in Iraq and 136 in Afghanistan.

"When life seems hard the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future."

The queen and other members of the royal family attended their traditional Christmas Day church service on the queen's Sandringham House estate in Norfolk.

The queen was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and Princes William and Harry.