Queen Elizabeth II paid a heartfelt tribute to her late husband Prince Philip as she marked her first Christmas without him.

The monarch's annual Christmas message to the nation, recorded from the White Drawing Room in Windsor Castle, saw her open up about her love for her husband of 73 years, who passed away at the age of 99 in April this year. Her desk, often adorned with pictures of her loved ones, is always a topic of conversation after she releases the message, and this year's table saw a single photo of her and her late husband that was taken in 2007 to mark their 60th wedding anniversary.

The 95-year-old also sported an accessory that has a special connection with her "beloved" husband. She wore her chrysanthemum brooch, made with sapphires and diamonds set in platinum, which she had first worn on her honeymoon with Philip in Broadlands, Hampshire. She had also worn it to mark their 60th and 73rd wedding anniversaries.

The monarch started her very personal message by admitting how much she misses the late Prince Consort. She said, "Although it's a time of great happiness and good cheer for many, Christmas can be hard for those who have lost loved ones. This year, especially, I understand why. But for me, in the months since the death of my beloved Philip, I have drawn great comfort from the warmth and affection of the many tributes to his life and work – from around the country, the Commonwealth and the world."

She went on to praise her husband for his loyalty to his duties and his mischievous sense of humour. She said, "His sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation – were all irrepressible. That mischievous, enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him."

"But life, of course, consists of final partings as well as first meetings; and as much as I and my family miss him, I know he would want us to enjoy Christmas," she added.

In another part of the speech, she noted that her husband was "always mindful of this sense of passing the baton," which is why he created The Duke of Edinburgh's Award which offers young people the chance of exploration and adventure. She added that the late royal was also an "early champion" of the environment.

Queen's Christmas message
The Queen usually celebrates Christmas at her Sandringham estate in eastern England, but she remained at Windsor Castle this year Victoria Jones/Pool via AFP