The history of the Queen’s Christmas speech
The first Christmas radio broadcast was by George V in 1932, while the speech was first televised in 1957
The Queen’s Christmas broadcast is a traditional feature of the festive season where the head of state can express her thoughts about the past year.
The monarch made her first Christmas broadcast live on the radio in 1952 – the year of her accession – and the annual message was first shown on TV in 1957.
She has made a Christmas Day speech every year except in 1969, when she decided the royals had been on TV enough after an unprecedented family documentary.
Instead, her greeting took the form of a written address.
The first televised broadcast was transmitted live from the Long Library at Sandringham, and the Queen told how she hoped “this new medium will make my Christmas message more personal and more direct”.
The Queen’s first pre-recorded speech was in 1959.
The monarch – a consummate professional – usually completes her delivery in one take.
But footage from an ITV documentary earlier this year revealed that that her 2017 speech had to be re-recorded after a chirruping bird outside the palace window interrupted the proceedings.
In her 1991 message, the Queen silenced rumours of abdication as she pledged to continue to serve.
She also issued a writ against The Sun newspaper after it published the full text of her 1992 broadcast two days before transmission.
She later accepted an apology and a £200,000 donation to charity.
The Queen’s grandfather, King George V, delivered the first royal Christmas broadcast live on the radio from Sandringham in 1932.
He read a message composed by author Rudyard Kipling.
The original idea was suggested by Sir John Reith, the founding father of the BBC, to inaugurate the Empire Service, now the BBC World Service.
George V was at first unsure about using the relatively untried medium of the wireless, but eventually agreed.
The fixed time of 3pm each year was chosen in 1932 because it was considered the best for reaching most of the countries in the British Empire by short wave.
King George V’s eldest son, who became King Edward VIII, never delivered a Christmas speech, as his reign lasted less than a year, ending in abdication.
King George VI, the Queen’s father and Edward’s brother, made his first broadcast in December 1937 in which he thanked the nation for their support during the first year of his reign.
There was no Christmas broadcast in 1936 or 1938, and it was the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 that firmly established the tradition.
The speech is written by the Queen herself and is one of the rare occasions when she does not turn to the Government for advice and is able to voice her own views.
Each message has a strong religious framework and reflects current issues.
She chooses a theme, drawing sometimes on her own personal experiences and sometimes from global events such as wars, terrorist attacks or natural disasters.
In 2003, the Queen recorded her annual Christmas message entirely on location, away from a royal residence, for the first time.
With a military backdrop of armoured fighting vehicles at Combermere Barracks in Windsor, she paid tribute to British servicemen and women who had fought in the Iraq war.
The Queen sometimes watches her own speech alone on Christmas Day.
The Duke of York revealed the monarch can prefer to leave the room to scrutinise her work as the rest of the royal family gather around the television together at Sandringham on December 25.
Andrew recalled: “I do remember that sometimes the Queen watches it and sometimes sits in another room thinking ‘Has it come across in the right way?’”
He added: “As children we were always encouraged after lunch to behave ourselves and wait for the Queen’s message, because lunch would usually finish within one or 15 minutes of quarter to three, and three o’clock is the time we all sit down and watch it.”
The duke spoke of how other members of the royal family have taken part in the broadcast over the years.
“I think all of us have taken part in it in one form or another over the years,” he said.
During the Falklands War when the duke served as a helicopter pilot, Andrew and his fellow servicemen were the focus of the Queen’s 1982 message.
“The fact that the Queen, their Commander in Chief, had a concern and was thinking about what they’re doing, and as it were, was with them for those few minutes, gives you a tremendous buzz and a feel that ‘Oh we’ve been mentioned, we’ve been thought about’,” he told ITV.
The Press Association
Latest posts by The Press Association (see all)
- 4 things you need to know about matcha - March 18, 2019
- How to make your garden a plastic-free zone - March 18, 2019
- What’s better for you – sleeping on your front, back or side? - March 15, 2019
- Struggling to sleep? 6 ways to relieve insomnia naturally - March 14, 2019
- Royal babies through the ages - March 14, 2019
Leave a Comment!
Community Terms & Conditions
These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.
You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.
be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.
Contributions must not:
contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.
Nurturing a safe environment
Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.
We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!