LONDON (AFP) – Queen Elizabeth II gave thanks on Tuesday for Britain’s year of Olympic and diamond jubilee festivities, in her first Christmas message to the Commonwealth broadcast in 3D.
The 86-year-old monarch said it had been “humbling” to see the vast crowds joining celebrations marking her 60th year on the throne and paid tribute to the volunteers, as well as the athletes, who took part in the London Olympics.
“The success of these great festivals depended to an enormous degree upon the dedication and effort of an army of volunteers,” she said.
“All those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes.”
Everyone was able to share in the “excitement and drama” of the Games, she added.
The monarch formally opened the Games in dramatic fashion herself, after taking part in a James Bond scene which ended with the pair seemingly parachuting down to the Olympic Stadium from a helicopter.
Her pre-recorded Christmas message was broadcast across Britain and all 15 Commonwealth realms where she is head of state — although just a small minority have access to the 3D-television facility.
The 3D broadcast comes exactly 80 years after the queen’s father, king George V, gave the first royal Christmas broadcast to the Commonwealth by radio.
Behind-the-scenes photographs showed the queen beaming as she previewed the footage, wearing customised 3D glasses marked with a “Q” in diamante studs.
Earlier Tuesday, the monarch joined other British royals for a Christmas church service on her Sandringham estate in Norfolk, eastern England — but Prince William and his pregnant wife Catherine were absent.
William and the former Kate Middleton, who is recovering from severe morning sickness that saw her hospitalised for four days earlier this month, broke with tradition to spend Christmas Day with her family rather than the royals.
The queen had missed church on Sunday due to a cold but appeared in good spirits as she arrived for the morning service at St Mary Magdalene Church wearing a turquoise coat dress and matching hat.
Her 91-year-old husband Prince Philip, who spent last Christmas in hospital following a heart scare, was also at church along with heir to the throne Prince Charles and his wife Camilla.
The royals traditionally spend Christmas at Sandringham, but William’s younger brother Prince Harry will also be absent from this year’s festivities as he serves in Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter pilot.
William and Kate’s office at St James’s Palace said the couple, whose first child will be third-in-line to the British throne, would visit Sandringham later in the holidays.
The queen and Prince Philip are understood to have approved their grandson’s decision to spend Christmas Day with his parents-in-law, Michael and Carole Middleton, who run a party supplies business.
Kate’s sister Pippa and brother James were also expected to spend the day at the Middleton family home in Bucklebury, a village west of London.