In Christmas message, queen honors cities hit by terror

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Queen of England - picture courtesy of Associated Press

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II is using her annual Christmas message to pay tribute to the way the cities of London and Manchester pulled together after extremist attacks earlier this year.

Remarks pre-recorded by the 91-year-old monarch will be televised on Christmas Day in the United Kingdom and the 51 other Commonwealth countries.

Excerpts released by Buckingham Palace indicate Elizabeth praises the “powerful identities” of Manchester, hit by a suicide bomber in May, and London, which endured attacks on Parliament, London Bridge and other landmarks.

The queen says it was her privilege to visit young survivors of the attack on a Manchester concert hall as they were recovering from the blast which claimed 22 lives.

“I describe that hospital visit as a ‘privilege’ because the patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience,” she says.

Elizabeth also pays tribute to her husband, 96-year-old Prince Philip, who this year stepped down from most public duties because of his advancing years.

The queen, Philip and family members plan to attend a church service Monday on the grounds of Elizabeth’s country estate in Sandringham, 110 miles (175 kilometers) north of London.

They typically mingle with locals who come to watch them arrive.

The royal family has a private lunch scheduled afterward. This is the first Christmas the family will be joined by Prince Harry’s fiancee, American actress Meghan Markle. They plan to marry at Windsor Castle in May.

Elizabeth says in her brief broadcast that the royal family looks forward “to welcoming new members into it next year” — an apparent reference to Markle and the baby expected in the spring by Prince William and his wife, Kate.