In his first Christmas speech, King Charles remembered Queen Elizabeth

King Charles continued the tradition of the British monarch giving a holiday broadcast, just months after Queen Elizabeth died at age 96

During a holiday ritual so closely identified with the late monarch, Queen Elizabeth II was definitely in King Charles III’s thoughts.

The King’s first Christmas speech was aired across the country on Christmas Day. For many, it will be the first time that Queen Elizabeth does not deliver a speech.

King Charles recalled his mother, who died in September at the age of 96, from the outset. He filmed the pre-recorded address in Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel, where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are buried. It was also the site of the Queen’s committal service in September.

“I am standing here in this exquisite Chapel of St. George at Windsor Castle, so close to where my beloved mother, the late Queen, is laid to rest with my dear father,” the King, 74, began his speech. “I am reminded of the deeply touching letters, cards, and messages which so many of you have sent my wife and myself and I cannot thank you enough for the love and sympathy you have shown our whole family.”

He continued, “Christmas is a particularly poignant time for all of us who have lost loved ones. We feel their absence at every familiar turn of the season and remember them in each cherished tradition.”

King Charles continued his speech, “In the much-loved carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ we sing of how ‘in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.’ My mother’s belief in the power of that light was an essential part of her faith in God, but also her faith in people — and it is one which I share with my whole heart. It is a belief in the extraordinary ability of each person to touch, with goodness and compassion, the lives of others, and to shine a light on the world around them. This is the essence of our community and the very foundation of our society.”

King Charles “has huge empathy” for others experiencing loss, a former palace staffer told PEOPLE ahead of the holiday. “We are so used to seeing the iconic footage of the Queen leading her family to church on Christmas morning,” says the staffer. “This year there will be a great deal of reflection and sorrow.”

King George V delivered the inaugural Christmas speech in 1932, with Queen Elizabeth appearing in the first televised broadcast in 1957 and every year since. “She was a one-take wonder — she was outstanding,” a former palace employee recalled.

There were several tributes to Queen Elizabeth at Kate Middleton’s second annual Christmas carol concert at Westminster Abbey on December 15.

“This carol service is dedicated to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and all those who have passed away. This ceremony was inspired by Her Late Majesty’s deeply held ideals of responsibility, compassion, and faith “Inside the program for Royal Carols: Together at Christmas, read a message.

As the service began, a film played highlighting how the late Queen was at the heart of Christmas Day for so many people.

Prince William read part of his late grandmother’s 2012 Christmas broadcast.

“At Christmas, I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story,” the Prince of Wales, 40, began, quoting the monarch’s address from a decade ago. “A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child. From that day on he has inspired people to commit themselves to the best interests of others. This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served.’ He restored love and service to the center of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.”

He continued, “It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others. The carol, ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service: ‘What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part.’ Carol gives the answer, ‘Yet what I can I give him – give my heart.’ “

Another homage to the history-making queen was the addition of Paddington Bear ornaments to Christmas trees in Westminster Abbey. After performing a funny skit with the animated character during her Platinum Jubilee festivities in June, Queen Elizabeth became connected with Paddington Bear, and over 1,000 teddy bears were placed outside her royal homes in London and Windsor following her death.