The Queen has used her Christmas Day message to reassure anyone struggling without friends and family this year that they “are not alone”.
She said what many people want “for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand” – but “even on the darkest nights there is hope in the new dawn”.
The 94-year-old praised acts of kindness, saying the pandemic “brought us closer” despite causing hardship.
The Queen, like so many, is spending the day apart from her family.
“Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer,” the monarch said in the broadcast, adding that the Royal Family has been “inspired” by people volunteering in their communities.
“In the United Kingdom and around the world, people have risen magnificently to the challenges of the year, and I am so proud and moved by this quiet, indomitable spirit.”
She lamented that “people of all faiths have been unable to gather as they would wish for their festivals”, but said “we need life to go on”.
The Queen highlighted Diwali celebrations last month in Windsor – where she is spending Christmas with the Duke of Edinburgh for the first time in decades – as an example of “joyous moments of hope and unity despite social distancing”.
“Of course for many, this time of year will be tinged with sadness – some mourning the loss of those dear to them and others missing friends and family members distanced for safety, when all they really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand,” she added.
“If you are among them, you are not alone, and let me assure you of my thoughts and prayers.”
She gave particular thanks to young people, to frontline workers, and to “good Samaritans [who] have emerged across society, showing care and respect for all”.