Queen praised Sophie Wessex at Christmas as Countess dubbed Royal Family’s ‘secret weapon’

Queen cancels Christmas party as she thinks about Sandringham

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Queen Elizabeth II, 95, is set to make her annual speech to the nation and the Commonwealth at 3pm on Christmas Day this year. The country’s longest reigning monarch, who celebrates her Platinum Jubilee next year, will likely touch on the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis has impacted Her Majesty’s own festive plans this year as she was forced to scrap her annual pre-Christmas lunch.

The dramatic cancellation came against the backdrop of rising Covid cases caused by the Omicron variant.

In the Queen’s Christmas speech last year, she praised the efforts of key workers and tried to comfort those separated from their loved ones due to Covid measures.

However, the monarch used her televised address to praise Sophie Wessex, according to the Daily Mirror’s features editor Zoe Forsey.

Sophie, who is married to Prince Edward, the Queen’s youngest son, appeared with Her Majesty on video call engagements last year.

Ms Forsey, who presents regal podcast ‘Pod Save The Queen’, quoted royal insiders who hailed Sophie’s contributions to the Firm.

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The Countess of Wessex, who is known to be close to the Queen, was dubbed “the Royal Family’s secret weapon” by one source.

She was also described by an insider as a “dedicated and hard-working” royal who is “always busy”.

Ms Forsey wrote that Sophie had helped the Queen by “quietly steadying the ship after a tumultuous period for The Firm”.

The journalist referenced the Queen’s grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle’s announcement in January last year that they would step back from their royal duties.

Sophie’s importance to the Royal Family was highlighted with video clips that were played during the Queen’s Christmas speech.

The Countess of Wessex was seen taking part in video calls with NHS staff alongside other key royals, including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cambridge.

The Queen began her festive message by reflecting on the disruptions the pandemic had created for people of different faiths celebrating their religious festivals.

She went on to stress that, despite the various health measures, she had taken strength from various acts of human courage around the world.

She said: “Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept people apart has, in many ways, brought us closer.

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“Across the Commonwealth, my family and I have been inspired by stories of people volunteering in their communities, helping those in need.”

Closing her speech, the Queen addressed those craving a “simple hug or a squeeze of the hand” at Christmas, telling them, “You are not alone”.

This year’s celebrations have also been overshadowed by the pandemic as the number of Covid infections has continued to increase across the UK in recent days.

The health secretary Sajid Javid said today that he could not rule out bringing in further health restrictions before Christmas to curb the spread of the virus.

A meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee and the UK’s devolved leaders is set to take place this afternoon.

This year’s Queen’s speech will be shown on BBC One, ITV, Sky One, Sky News and available to listen to on BBC Radio 4.

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