In churches up and down the country prayers were offered at Christmas for the Royal Family. This year these prayers had an added poignancy with the news that Prince Philip was to spend the festival away from his family and in hospital.
Over 60 per cent of people surveyed on the meaning of Christmas recently said that spending time with family was the most important aspect of the day. It is terribly sad that some have to spend Christmas apart from their loved ones, either through illness, because they cannot afford to travel or because they have no family left.
The Duke of Edinburgh's illness, at the dawn of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee year, is a reminder that he is in his 91st year. Despite his age, the Duke carried out 283 engagements in 2011.
He has, for nearly sixty-five years, been at the heart of our national life. And he served with distinction in the Royal Navy during the Second World War but was forced to leave active service just before The Queen's accession.
In the 90th birthday tributes to the Duke of Edinburgh last year, the Prime Minister acknowledged the Duke's history of mildly controversial remarks, many of which have been a tonic to our excessive political correctness. He also paid tribute to the Duke's long and devoted public service.
In 2011, the year when he saw two of his eight grandchildren married, Prince Philip became the longest-serving Royal consort in our country's history. This year, the Queen will become only the second sovereign in a millennium to reign for 60 years. They are both record-breakers who have dedicated their lives to public service.
Sometimes, they seem to be the only immutable part of our national life. To mark The Queen's Silver Jubilee, Philip Larkin wrote this short poem:
In times when nothing stood
but worsened, or grew strange,
there was one constant good:
she did not change.
Perhaps for the Diamond Jubilee that should read ‘they did not change'. I am sure that many of my constituents will share my pleasure that Prince Philip is out of hospital, and my hope that his recovery continues.