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t the end of 2015 and the beginning of this year, floods caused devastation in many areas of the United Kingdom. The royal estates were no exception, and as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay celebrated Hogmanay at Birkhall on the Queen’s Balmoral estate the River Muick, which runs through the gardens, burst its banks. The normally gentle river became a torrent and swamped the carefully-tended gardens, originally designed by the Queen Mother and later updated by her eldest grandson.

   Charles could do nothing but vowed to repair the damage and instead threw his energies into helping people in and around the nearby town of Ballater. As a countryman the Prince has a natural empathy with flood victims and understands how farmers and their animals suffer when a deluge of mud and silt washes away their livelihoods.

   This year sees the 40th anniversary of the Prince’s Trust, which he started in 1976. In a television documentary to mark the anniversary the Prince of Wales spoke of the ‘difficulty’ he had to overcome to get the Trust off the ground with ‘people who didn’t see the point’. He always sees the point – both for himself and others – and luckily is stubborn enough to never give up.

   In her Christmas message, the Queen compared the Holy Family to the plight of migrants and refugees, over a million of whom poured into Europe during 2015. She was careful not to make any kind of political statement but instead made the comparison in her own gentle way.

   ‘For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth – in a stable – were far from ideal,’ she said. ‘But worse was to come as the family was forced to flee the country...’

   ‘Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another. Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.’

   The Queen, who will be 90 in April, also mentioned in her message that she was looking forward to a busy 2016, and had been warned ‘I may have Happy Birthday sung to me more than once or twice’.

   In 2015 Her Majesty carried out 306 engagements at home and 35 abroad, but it was the Duke of Edinburgh whose tally of work surprised everyone when it was realised that he had undertaken 217 engagements in this country and 33 overseas.

   Prince Philip will celebrate his 95th birthday on 10 June, the day that a service of thanksgiving will take place at St Paul’s Cathedral to mark his wife’s four score and ten. There is no escaping the multiple celebrations for both of them and no doubt there will be a ball at Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace for family and close friends to enjoy.

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