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By Rachel Elbaum
LONDON — In a year marked by bitter political debate over Brexit, Queen Elizabeth II will focus on family, friendship and tolerance in her annual Christmas address to the nation.
“Through the many changes I have seen over the years — faith, family and friendship have been not only a constant for me but a source of personal comfort and reassurance,” she will say, according to an excerpt released on the royal family’s Twitter feed ahead of time.
“Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human-being is always a good first step towards greater understanding.”
The theme of unity won’t be lost on a nation that remains divided by the issue of its divorce from the European Union. Britain is due to leave the E.U. in March but the past few months have been marked by political turmoil as ministers debate the terms of the U.K.’s departure from the 28-member bloc.
Parliament is due to vote in mid-January on the deal that Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the E.U., but there remains uncertainty over whether it will pass and how Brexit will ultimately be resolved.
Though she is the head of state, the queen and the royal family don’t comment on or get involved in politics.
“Obviously British politics has been in some degree of turmoil and although she can’t be partisan about what she thinks about Brexit or anything else, I think there is this sense that she knows she is the mother of the nation and she is a calming influence,” said NBC royal expert Camila Tominey.
Sitting in front of a decorated fir tree, the 92-year-old monarch displayed on her desk a photo of her young family featuring her husband, Prince Philip, holding Prince Charles as a baby. Her eldest son and heir to the throne celebrated his 70th birthday last month.
It’s been a year of family celebrations for the queen. In April, she welcomed a new great grandson, Prince Louis. A month later, Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle, and in October, her granddaughter Princess Eugenie wed.
The queen is set to welcome her eighth great-grandchild next spring when Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, gives birth.
The royal family will spend Christmas together in Sandringham, where they too will watch the pre-recorded speech on television, according to Tominey.
“There’s a sense to British people that if the queen is going to stop to watch it then so should the rest of us,” she said.