GREGORY KATZ and FRANK AUGSTEIN
SANDRINGHAM, England (AP) — Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II wove personal reflections into her annual Christmas message, offering the customary wishes for peace and saying she hoped she had attained a measure of wisdom during her 92 years.
“Some cultures believe a long life brings wisdom,” Elizabeth said in a pre-recorded message broadcast Tuesday. “I’d like to think so. Perhaps part of that wisdom is to recognize some of life’s baffling paradoxes, such as the way human beings have a huge propensity for good and yet a capacity for evil.”
On a lighter note, the queen noted that 2018 was a busy year for her family: two weddings, two new babies and another due next year.
“It helps to keep a grandmother well occupied,” she said.
The annual message was broadcast to many of the 53 Commonwealth countries after the queen and senior royals attended a church service on the outskirts of one of her country estates.
Elizabeth and other members of the British royal family received cheers from a Christmas crowd when they arrived.
A chauffeured limousine delivered the 92-year-old Elizabeth to St. Mary Magdalene Church, while younger royals walked from nearby Sandringham House.
Prince Charles led the way, followed by his sons: Prince William and his wife, Catherine, and Prince Harry and his pregnant wife, Meghan.
Harry and Meghan, who are expecting their first child in the spring, walked arm in arm next to William and Catherine. Many in the crowd wished them “Merry Christmas” as they strolled to the church in the English countryside on a cold, wintry morning.
During the service, the congregation sang the traditional carols “O Little Town Of Bethlehem,” ”Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
After the 45-minute service, people gave them flowers as they headed back for a traditional Christmas lunch.
The queen’s husband, Prince Philip, who is 97 and largely retired from public life, did not attend the service. Charles’ wife Camilla, who is recovering from flu, also missed church.
William and Catherine’s three children — Prince George, 5, Princess Charlotte, 3, and 8-month-old Prince Louis, also stayed home.
Prince Andrew, the queen’s son, arrived by car with his mother. Princess Eugenie, another of the queen’s grandchildren, arrived with husband Jack Brooksbank.
Britain’s royals usually exchange small gifts on Christmas Eve, a practice popularized by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The queen typically frowns on extravagant gifts, and many of the presents are novelty items.
When the queen was younger, Christmas meant a brisk family walk through the woods on Christmas or an excursion on horseback.
Elizabeth made her first Christmas Day broadcast on the radio in 1952, the year she ascended to the throne. She made the move to television in 1957.
She has broadcast the message each year since, with the exception of 1969. The queen felt the royal family had gotten enough TV exposure that year while allowing unusual access for a TV documentary.
That year, the message only appeared in writing.
Katz reported from London.