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Queen's Christmas message recalls year's joys, sadness

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth   
December 25, 1997
Web posted at: 12:59 p.m. EST (1759 GMT)

LONDON (CNN) -- "Joy and woe are woven fine, a clothing for the soul divine."

The line from poet William Blake was brought home to Britain's royal family this year, Queen Elizabeth II said Thursday during her Christmas message, as she recalled the excitement of a golden wedding anniversary celebration, the bittersweet return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule, and the anguish of Princess Diana's death.

Her message was the longest ever by a British monarch, lasting nine minutes and 55 seconds. It was also the first message to appear on the Internet.

In it, the queen departed from the stuffy tones of broadcasts past. The format of the message itself was also different, with video clips of events from the past year interspersed with the queen's message.



A L S O :

Text of the Queen's Christmas message


"We all felt the shock and sorrow of Diana's death. Thousands upon thousands of you expressed your grief most poignantly in the wonderful flowers and messages left in tribute to her," she said, as pictures of the seas of flowers left in front of London palaces were shown. "That was a great comfort to all those close to her."

She continued, "But Prince Philip and I also knew the joy of our golden wedding. We were glad to be able to share this joy at Buckingham Palace with many other couples who were celebrating their 50th anniversary this year."

The anniversary celebration, in which everyday Britons were invited to join the queen for a formal dinner, was part of a body of recent evidence of the Royal Family's attempts to get more in touch with the British public.

Queen Elizabeth chatted with Indians during her visit to India in the fall. Princes Charles and Harry have been seen in public, meeting British pop phenoms the Spice Girls at their concerts. And the royal family now has a royal Web site, on which it counters rumors by posting press releases.

Newspapers speak of a "post-Diana" monarchy, as though she were behind the changes. But columnist Libby Purves said things were likely to change anyway. "What you have to remember is the queen has lived a long time, and she's not stupid," she said.

"I think she realized during that week (of Diana's death) there was a need to feel that it was a responsive, modern, kindly sort of monarchy."

Moreover, said the Daily Telegraph's Robert Hardman, the monarchy may be changing less than people think. "I think one of the things about the royal family is very small change can be seen to be very fundamental."

More change is likely. Parliament wants to see the royal books, to determine whether the Queen's apartments and houses -- which are passed out to 250 household members by the queen's "grace and favor" -- might be a source of income.

But the royals have not yet said farewell to opulence, nor are they ready yet to step down to the level of the common folk.

"For most of us this is a happy family day, but many are alone or suffering," Queen Elizabeth said in her Christmas speech. "My heart goes out to you. We, the more fortunate ones can help.

Correspondent Richard Blystone and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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