IN her Christmas speech this year the Queen will refer to her family’s “bumpy” 2019 – with a number of carefully selected family photographs placed on the desk at her side.
After a difficult year for the royal family, commentators believe this year’s photos have been chosen to represent the direct line of succession to show the enduring strength and continuity of the monarchy.
Scandal-hit Prince Andrew is also missing from the photos on the Queen’s desk in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle.
Last year she had two photos of the Sussexes – an official wedding portrait of the royal couple and a family picture of them celebrating Charles’s 70th birthday.
In the year of Archie’s birth, she might have been expected to include one of him with Harry and Meghan.
Dickie Arbiter, the former Buckingham Palace press secretary, said: “Their son Archie was born this year. You would have thought there might be a picture. It is a very clear omission. I am surprised but whether there is a clear message being sent out I don’t know.”
Instead, aside from Philip in the background, the pictures focus on the immediate line of succession.
One picture shows the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children – Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis – perched on and around a motorbike and side car – an image used for the couple’s Christmas card.
There is also a black and white image of the Queen’s father King George VI sending a message of hope and reassurance to the British people in wartime 1944.
Last year, to mark the Prince of Wales’s 70th birthday, the closest pictures to the Queen were of her and Philip holding Charles as a baby and another of him as a grandfather with both his sons, their wives and grandchildren.
A side table was adorned with wedding photos of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and of Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, who all married at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in 2018.
In 2017, the year of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s 70th wedding anniversary, she made her Christmas speech next to a photo of the couple on their wedding day, as well as a portrait to mark their anniversary.
Photos of Prince George and Princess Charlotte were also included, having been put in by the TV production team filming the address.
A courtier told the Daily Mail: “From time to time the producers have their own ideas of which royals they also want in the shot and the Queen is always happy to go along with it.”
During her 2015 message, the photo given pride of place was a wedding-day snap of Charles and Camilla to mark their tenth wedding anniversary.
That was positioned next to a picture of William, Kate and George with six-month-old Charlotte, as well as the Queen’s favourite photo of her and Philip.
In 2002, the year the Queen lost both her mother and sister, she delivered her Christmas message next to a photo of a young Princess Margaret and one of the Queen Mother as a young woman, with King George beside her.
During her Christmas message of 1992, which she referred to as “annus horribilis”, after the marriages of three of her children collapsed, she tellingly did not include any photos of her children.
Instead, she used photos of her grandfather and father, as well as one of her making her first Christmas broadcast in 1952.
In her Christmas Day TV message the Queen will refer to her family’s “bumpy” 2019 and the nation’s Brexit divisions.
This year, son Prince Andrew, 59, missing from the family photos seen during the broadcast, has been mired in the scandal of his friendship with US paedo Jeffrey Epstein and claims that he slept with a teen sex slave.
In his car crash Newsnight interview, Andrew failed to express any sympathy for the victims of Epstein, who was found hanged in jail in August while awaiting trial for sex trafficking.
Following a public backlash, Andrew was sacked by the Queen and stripped of his royal duties and £249,000 sovereign grant.
The duke faced criticism for taking too long to contact the occupants of the other car and for being seen driving without his seat-belt in the days that followed.
Brexit has divided the country and Parliament, leading to huge uncertainty.
But speaking about the life of Jesus and the importance of reconciliation in tomorrow’s broadcast to the nation and the Commonwealth, the Queen will say “how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.
“The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of difference.”
Her Majesty’s comment is thought to be her first public reference to the personal events her family has experienced this year.