IT was an image that surely will have melted even the hardest of republican hearts.
The Queen — with her beloved husband in hospital — faced the cameras on Sunday with her usual stiff upper lip as she attended a carol service at Sandringham.
She was doing what she does best, getting on with things quietly but resolutely when it gets tough.
And make no mistake, this year has been a second annus horribilis for the monarch.
A year that began with the Duke of Edinburgh's involvement in a car crash that left a motorist injured, ended with him being rushed to hospital by helicopter due to a pre-existing condition.
She has also had to endure her favourite son Prince Andrew becoming so entwined in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal that it was in danger of damaging the monarchy itself.
Then Prince Harry confirmed reports that he and Prince William had fallen out.
One of the joys that Christmas brings for the Queen is it bringing the whole family together. But sadly the newest member, Archie
Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, won't be there.
He will be with his parents Harry and Meghan somewhere in Canada, celebrating away from the royals.
That's a real shame, because with his upbeat presence Harry would have got the Queen laughing over the turkey.
I watched the boys grow up, and you couldn't then get a cigarette paper between them.
It will sadden the Queen that Harry is not there and that he doesn't seem to get on with his brother any more.
As a nation, we have huge rifts to heal over Brexit. In her traditional Christmas Day speech the Queen will ask the country to come together and heal the wounds.
I'm sure one of her priorities in the New Year will not only be to unite the country, but to bring together her beloved grandsons and their wives.
But it's the Epstein outrage that did most to threaten the House of Windsor this year.
The Queen must have been horrified to watch the car- crash interview Andrew gave to the BBC.
With his arrogance and lack of preparation, Andrew — a Falklands War hero — turned what he hoped could have been his redemption into a nightmare.
The Queen, with the advice of the Prince of Wales, acted swiftly. Andrew was stripped of his royal duties. The institution has to be protected at all times.
Of course, it would have been hard for the Queen to do all this, but she did it with calm and with grace, the hallmarks our redoubtable, 93-year-old monarch.
We should not forget this. This remarkable woman continues to serve us when many would have crumbled.
You will not hear the slightest grumble from our Queen.
Thank heavens for that.
While it seems the royals can do no right, the Queen carries on as normal. She rides her Fell pony most weekends and watches the racing on TV and gets excited when she picks a winner.
Her family looks to her at times of division and uncertainty — and so does the nation.
The country is polarised over Brexit and one of the things the Queen wants to see is the divisions healed and for people to come together in the New Year.
Since he retired, the Duke of Edinburgh has lived in Sandringham, so the Queen is rattling around in her apartments with just servants to talk to. She can't confide in them like she can the Duke. The scandal that has engulfed Prince Andrew will have saddened her so much. But she won't abandon her son. She loves him.
All families face rifts and scandals at one time or another. The Windsors are no different. Their story is all about continuity, both for the nation and the Royal Family.
Pray for strength
So the Queen will have loved the recently released new photographs of herself with the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince George preparing a Christmas pudding for charity.
It was a royal flush, the Monarch with three generations of heirs. I will be at Sandringham at 11am tomorrow to photograph the
Queen and her family as they arrive at St Mary Magdalene Church.
She will pray for the strength to carry on through what are likely to be bumpy roads ahead.
And bumps there will be. The Andrew scandal is far from over and 2020 could be a pivotal year for the Duke, who has yet to face the FBI.
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So when you watch the Queen give her Christmas message tomorrow afternoon, spare a thought for someone who has served this country so dutifully and for so long.
An amazing woman of true decency and honour.
We remain lucky to have her.