A worrying time for Royal family
One of the most important broadcasts of the Christmas period is the Queen's annual message, which always attracts a large audience at home and abroad. This year, however, there was a greater significance because the broadcast, in which the Queen especially mentioned family values, took place at a time when the Duke of Edinburgh has been recovering from an emergency heart operation.
This a worrying time for the Queen and all other members of the Royal family, as they experience the emotions which every other family in the land would feel in such circumstances.
Happily, however, the Duke appears to be making a steady recovery. He is a larger-than-life character, and despite his sometimes gruff exterior, he is a caring man who is highly-regarded by people from all backgrounds.
There was a special interest for us in Her Majesty's remarks about her historic State Visit to the Republic of Ireland earlier this year, and her tribute to the warmth of her hosts will do much to raise the profile of Ireland in these troubled economic times.
The mark of approval from no less a figure than the Queen will attract new visitors to this beautiful island, and may well lead to a spin-off for tourism up here, especially in 2012 which will feature the opening of the new Titanic Project in Belfast.
Apart from the Queen's endorsement of the attractions of Ireland, her visit to the Republic was of the utmost political significance, and already it has done much to help bind up some of the painful wounds of the past.
The Queen's Christmas broadcast is also a reminder that she is a remarkable Head of State, who has always retained the majesty of her position while moving along with the latest developments in technology to present a thoughtful and caring message to all.
Since 1952 when she came to the throne after the death of her father King George VI, she has shown remarkable devotion to duty. Her courage and determination have helped her to survive national and family setbacks which might have overwhelmed a lesser person.
Now on the eve of her Diamond Jubilee year, the Queen is facing another heavy schedule during which she intends to visit all parts of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.
The latest developments concerning the Duke's health may lead to some change of plans, but given his doughty spirit he will no doubt wish for as few curtailments as possible.
Throughout many decades, the Queen has ruled with wisdom and moral strength, and in a world of complex politics and changing values, she has remained truly a national treasure.
In doing so she has been aided immeasurably by her husband, and everyone will wish him well, and a speedy recovery, at this difficult time for the entire Royal family.