The Queen is set to deliver her most Christian Christmas message to date, using her annual address to the British people to underscore her deep-held belief in the continuing role of Christianity in British life.
Her words come as Christians around the world, including in Britain, are suffering violent persecution for their faith, and at a time when the threat from Islamist extremism is greater than ever before.
The content of the speech is, as ever, a closely guarded secret. But one insider has told the Mail on Sunday: “Over the years we’ve seen a greater emphasis on the Queen’s faith and we’re certain to see it in this year’s Christmas broadcast. There’s a fundamental optimism which, to an extent, is driven by her faith in contrast to the overall gloom. She is driven by a deep and spirited faith.”
Her intention has been welcomed by the former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who said that the Queen was keen to uphold her beliefs in the face of increasing secularisation within the country at large.
“The Queen was very aware of the need to express her faith clearly while also respecting other beliefs,” he said. “There is pressure for the next Coronation to be multi-faith or no faith. My understanding is that it will actually be a Christian event, but obviously the Queen would want to reinforce that.”
He particularly welcomed her willingness to speak openly about her Christianity at a time when Islamic extremism poses a growing threat to the Christian world. “Clearly extremism is a backdrop to anything that any public figures says at this time,” he said.
“If people in this country gave greater heed to what the Queen says about the importance of Christianity in our personal as well as our national life, then we would be in a better place to confront it.
Yesterday morning, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby posted a Christmas message on his Facebook page, calling for more tolerance between different faiths, but failed to mention the persecution of Christians.
“This year has been an extremely tough one for so many people and communities in this country. In particular I think of our Muslim brothers and sisters who’ve felt pressured to defend themselves in the wake of horrendous attacks carried out so outrageously in their name,” he said.
“I think too of the fear among Jewish communities, and among Sikhs, Hindus and those of other faiths. No one in this country should have to feel fear and anxiety as they try peacefully to live, pray and worship in their faith tradition. All who feel that fear will be included in my prayers this Christmas.”
The Royal Christmas message has been a staple of British Christmases since 1932, when the Queen’s grandfather, King George V, addressed the nation via radio.
The Queen is said to have gotten stage fright when she saw the cameras set up for her first address, in 1957, which aired live from Sandringham Palace. However she was helped by husband Prince Philip, who cracked a joke just before she was due to go on air, which helped her to relax.
Since then she has become an old hand at the address, flawlessly delivering messages each year of her reign.