Queen Elizabeth lauded the importance of a strong family at times of crisis, in a poignant Christmas message broadcast on Sunday as her 90-year-old husband recovered in hospital from heart surgery.

Elizabeth, who recorded the annual address before Prince Philip was taken ill on Friday, will mark 60 years on the throne in 2012 with a full tour of Britain, although Philip's condition may mean scaling back his share of the duties.

The spotlight has fallen on the royals this weekend after Philip was rushed to hospital following chest pains. He underwent a successful operation to ease a blocked heart artery late on Friday and was since said to be in good spirits.

We've seen that it's in hardship that we often find strength from our families; it's in adversity that new friendships are sometimes formed; and it's in a crisis that communities break down barriers and bind together to help one another, the Queen, 85, said.

Families, friends and communities often find a source of courage rising up from within.

Philip is likely to miss most of, if not all, the royal family's Christmas get-together at their rural Sandringham estate in eastern England as doctors monitor his recovery.

The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together, the Queen said.

Prince William's marriage to Catherine Middleton and the wedding of Zara Phillips and England rugby player Mike Tindall marked high points in a busy year for the Queen that included a trip to Australia and a visit from U.S. President Barack Obama.

With fears growing over the global economy and rising unemployment and social tensions in Britain, the Queen's address, watched by millions, was suffused with modest sobriety.

As we all know, the world is going through difficult times. All this will affect our celebration of this great Christian festival, she said.

The bereaved and the lonely will find it especially hard.

Tensions in economically hard-hit Britain have been evident this year. Riots and looting broke out in English towns and cities, while public anger against reckless behaviour in the highly-paid banking sector spilt over into protests.

The Queen touched on this friction, urging Britons to pull together and to be more thoughtful in their actions towards each other during tough times.

Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves, from our recklessness or our greed, she said.

(Reporting by Matt Falloon; Editing by Alistair Lyon)