Queen appeals for unity in Christmas Day speech

The Queen used her traditional Christmas Day speech to call on people to show respect for one another in spite of differences.

She extended this appeal to people of faith as she cautioned them not to give in to 'religious tribalism'.

The Queen reflected on the 'power of faith' but also 'some of life's baffling paradoxes such as the way human beings have a huge propensity for good, and yet a capacity for evil'.

'Even the power of faith which frequently inspires great generosity and self sacrifice can fall victim to tribalism,' she said.

'But 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.'

The Queen, 92, has reigned for the last 66 years, making her Britain's longest-reigning monarch.  Since her coronation in 1953, she has seen 19 different prime ministers lead Parliament.

Although the Queen is politically neutral, this year's Christmas Day speech was made against the backdrop of a toxic debate in Britain over its withdrawal from the European Union.

In an apparent reference to that debate, she appealed for respect.

'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 Queen said.

But the Queen also injected some humour into her speech as she reflected on a 'busy' year with the family.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married in May and are expecting their first child in the spring, while granddaughter Princess Eugenie wed Jack Brooksbank in October.

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge also welcomed their third child this year, Prince Louis. 

'Closer to home, it's been a busy year for my family, with two weddings and two babies and another child expected soon,' she said.

'It helps to keep a grandmother well occupied.'

The Queen also reflected on the timelessness of the Gospel message, saying that it was 'never out of date' and 'needed as much as ever'.

'The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn't contain theoretical explanations for the puzzles of life,' she said.

'Instead, it is about the birth of a child and the hope that birth 2,000 years ago brought to the world. Only a few acknowledged Jesus when he was born, now billions follow him.'