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Queen Elizabeth II stresses importance of family in Christmas message to nation
LONDON (AP) ' Queen Elizabeth II has stressed the importance of family and friendship in her annual, pre-recorded Christmas message to the nation.
The theme of her broadcast was especially poignant Sunday as Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip, remained in hospital recovering from a heart procedure. The message was recorded Dec. 9, before he was hospitalized.
Wearing a festive red dress, the Queen said that the importance of family was driven home by the marriages of two of her grandchildren this year.
She spoke of the strength family can provide during times of hardship and how friendships are often formed in difficult times.
Elizabeth pointed to the Commonwealth nations as an example that family "does not necessarily mean blood relatives but often a description of a community."
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
LONDON (AP) ' Britain's royal family celebrated Christmas on Sunday with one notable absence ' Queen Elizabeth II's husband Prince Philip, who remains hospitalized following a heart procedure.
The 90-year-old prince was recovering from having a coronary stent put in after doctors determined the heart pains that sent him to the hospital on Friday were caused by a blocked artery.
Buckingham Palace said "he's in good spirits" and family members will visit Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, in the hospital after lunch.
The royal family's Christmas schedule kicked off with a traditional morning service at St. Mary Magdelene Church, on the queen's sprawling Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
The huge crowds that gathered outside the church got an early peek when the royals made a quick private visit to the church ahead of the services. Less than two hours later, they were back ' in different clothes ' for the Christmas service.
The Queen arrived first ' dressed in a lavender-colored coat and hat ' in a royal limousine, leading the way into the church. Her oldest son, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, trailed behind.
Prince Harry walked in with his brother William and new sister-in-law Kate' now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Kate, whose style is closely watched around the world and who sends any dress she wears flying off the shelves in Britain, wore an eggplant-colored coat and matching hat.
Among the other royals present was the queen's granddaughter, Zara Philips, who was joined by her new husband Mike Tindall, an English rugby player.
After the service, children lined up to give bouquets of flowers to the queen. Thanking each well-wisher, the queen then handed the bouquets to her granddaughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.
Well-wisher Camilla Fitt, 71, said Charles told her that his father, Philip, was "very determined" to get well.
"Charles said he is coming on," said Fitt.
The royal family then traveled back to the house for lunch, an integral part of their celebration.
Another key part of their Christmas festivities is the queen's annual message to the nation, which this year will focus on family and community.
The 85-year-old queen has made a prerecorded Christmas broadcast on radio since 1952 and on television since 1957. She writes the speeches herself, and the broadcasts mark the rare occasion on which the queen voices her own opinion without government consultation.
Cassandra Vinograd can be reached at http://twitter.com/CassVinograd