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British royals, and a few actors, offer up festive cheer on Christmas Eve

Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, were joined by an ensemble of celebrities, including Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, to recite "A Visit from St. Nicholas."
Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, sit for their 2020 Christmas card at Birkhall in Aberdeenshire in Scotland.Clarence House / via AFP - Getty Images

LONDON — With millions of Britons preparing to celebrate Christmas under strict coronavirus lockdown restrictions, the royal family doled out some festive cheer on Christmas Eve.

Prince Charles, 72, and his wife, Camilla, were joined by an ensemble of celebrities, including actors Tom Hardy, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, to perform "A Visit from St. Nicholas," the Christmas poem more widely known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

Charles recites the first lines of the classic 1823 work, which depicts Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, and his sled, pulled by eight reindeer, arriving at a home.

Charles, the heir to the throne, also delivers the closing lines, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night," with a small flourish.

Charles, an amateur actor in his youth, is patron of the Actors' Benevolent Fund, a century-old British charity supporting actors facing financial hardship. The video is intended to raise money in a year when the arts and other creative industries have been badly hit, with theaters and galleries closed and television and movie productions canceled.

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Millions will tune into Queen Elizabeth's annual speech on Christmas Day, a long-held seasonal tradition.

The royal family normally spends the festive period in Sandringham in Norfolk, east England, with a Christmas Day church service. This year, Buckingham Palace has said, Elizabeth, 94, and her husband, Philip, will celebrate Christmas at Windsor Castle during the pandemic.

Charles' son Prince William and his wife, Kate, published their holiday card last week, showing a relaxed family, with their three children — George, 7, Charlotte, 5, and Louis, 2 — sitting with wide grins on a bale of hay at their country residence in eastern England.

Although they are no longer working royals, Charles' younger son, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan, who moved to the United States this year, made a donation to an animal welfare charity in London, Mayhew. Meghan is patron of the small charity, which shared the couple's holiday card.

The image shows an artistic drawing based on a photograph taken by Meghan's mother at their California home this month. The pair are seen playing with their young son, Archie, and two dogs in the garden.

The small Christmas tree in the image, including the homemade ornaments, was selected by Archie, a spokesperson for the family said, and it will be replanted after the holidays.

The lives of the royals drew new interest this year, with many locked-down fans tuning into season 4 of the Netflix series "The Crown." For the first time, the series featured Princess Diana, causing a stir as British politicians urged Netflix to make it clear that the show is fiction.