Queen Elizabeth II described 2019 as “quite bumpy” in a Christmas Day message at the end of a chaotic year which saw Britain bitterly divided over its split from the EU and her scandal-plagued son Prince Andrew withdraw from public life.
The 93-year-old monarch’s address came as her husband Philip was in hospital with an undisclosed illness.
The royal family was swept up in scandals that included a calamitous BBC interview in which the queen’s second son Andrew tried to distance himself from American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew promised to “step back from public duties” after his denial of having sex with one of Epstein’s alleged victims was ridiculed in the U.K. media and reportedly criticized in Buckingham Palace.
The queen pointed to the life of Jesus as an example of how reconciliation can be achieved and “how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions.”
The remarks were interpreted by many as a reference to the Brexit debate that has torn Britain apart since it voted to leave the EU in a referendum in 2016.
“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,” she added.
Royal commentators noted the queen’s use of the word “bumpy,” compared to her headline-grabbing description of 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” when the marriages of three of her children fell apart and her beloved Windsor Castle nearly went up in flames.
Britain’s regional and political divisions have been exacerbated in the three-and-a-half years since it voted to leave the EU. A landslide election win for Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson this month enabled him to finally win the Parliament’s approval for his Brexit deal but also reawakened calls north of the border for another referendum on Scottish independence.