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Royal Christmas Message


Royal Christmas Message

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The Royal Christmas Message (currently coined The Queen's Christmas Message) is broadcast by the British Sovereign to the Commonwealth at Christmas. The tradition began in 1932 with a radio broadcast by George V on the BBC Empire Service. Today the broadcast is made on television.



King George V gave the first Royal Christmas Message in 1932.
King George V gave the first Royal Christmas Message in 1932.

The idea for a Christmas Message from the Sovereign to the Commonwealth was originally mooted in 1932 by the founding father of the BBC, Sir John Reith. The idea of the speech was to inaugurate the then Empire Service, which is now known as the BBC World Service.

The first Royal Christmas Message was issued by George V in 1932. The King was originally hesitant about using the relatively untried medium of radio to issue a Christmas Message. However he was reassured by a visit to the BBC in the summer of 1932, and agreed to try out the idea. So in 1932 on Christmas Day, King George V issued a Christmas Message from a small office in Sandringham House to the Empire via "wireless".

George VI continued the Christmas broadcasts. Perhaps his best known was delivered in 1939, in the opening stages of the Second World War, and contained the famous lines starting: "I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year". Edward VIII abdicated before his first Christmas on the Throne, and therefore never issued a Christmas Message.

The tradition has been continued by the present Queen, Elizabeth II. Her first Christmas Message to the Commonwealth took place from the study at Sandringham House at 15:07 GMT on 25 December 1952 and was broadcast to the nation by BBC radio. She has delivered the traditional Message each Christmas ever since with the exception of 1969, and they have been fully televised since 1957. The message is broadcast in the UK at 3pm (15:00 GMT), and broadcast around the Commonwealth. In non-Commonwealth countries the Christmas Message can be heard on BBC radio or television, or can be downloaded at any time after 15:00 GMT on the Royal Family's website or other websites.

Messages by year

  • 1932: First royal Christmas Message was issued by George V.
    1939: George VI's first and best known speech in the opening stages of the Second World War containing the famous line: "I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year".
    1952: Queen makes first Christmas speech. She sat in the same chair and used the same desk as her father, George VI, and his father, George V, had previously done and she began with: "Each Christmas, at this time, my beloved father broadcast a message to his people in all parts of the world. Today I am doing this to you, who are now my people." This Message, and the ones until 1957, were also broadcast in sound only on television in the UK.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has given a Christmas Message for every year since 1952, apart from 1969.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has given a Christmas Message for every year since 1952, apart from 1969.
  • 1955: With the launch of ITV in the UK, the sound-only television broadcast was simulcast on both ITV and the BBC Television Service from this year on.
    1957: The Queen's Message was televised in-vision for the first time.
    1960: The Queen started to record her Christmas Messages.
    1969: No Christmas Message was broadcast in this year, apparently as the Queen felt that she had been on television too much due to Richard Cawston's The Royal Family documentary. A repeat of an episode from the documentary was broadcast on Christmas day.
    1970: Tradition was reinstated with the broadcast again taking place.
    1979: Ceefax was used for the first time providing subtitles for the hard of hearing.
    1980: The Queen's Christmas broadcast attracted a record of 28 million British viewers.
    1986–1991: Between these years the Christmas broadcast was produced by Sir David Attenborough.
    1988: The Queen added a supplementary message referring to the Clapham Junction rail crash, Lockerbie disaster and the Armenian earthquake which had happened since the main broadcast was videotaped.
    1992: Sad times for the royal family as the Queen called the year annus horribilis (Latin for "horrible year"). The speech was leaked beforehand to The Sun.
    1997: Broadcast produced by Independent Television News for the first time, beginning a period of alternating production with the BBC.
    1998: The Queen's Message first appeared on the Internet.
    2001: The Queen refers to the attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, underscoring their widespread effect felt across the Commonwealth.
    2003: The Queen makes her 50th Christmas Message.
    2004: A strong appeal for religious tolerance in the Commonwealth and beyond (see below). In a break from tradition, Her Majesty also sent a separate radio Christmas message to UK troops, which was broadcast by the British Forces Broadcasting Service.

The 1995 Christmas Message (BBC)

The 1995 broadcast began with a reminder of the 50th anniversary celebrations for VE-day and VJ-day. The Queen said that remembrance was an important part of our life, paying tribute to those who had served and those who had not returned. She then turned to present-day conflicts such as Bosnia in which British and Commonwealth forces were serving, and to the full year of peace in Northern Ireland. The Queen then referred to her Buckingham Palace invitation to voluntary workers working throughout the world, and picked out the work of Sister Ethel, a nun working in South Africa to help children in the townships. She ended by paying tribute to peacemakers throughout the world.

The 1996 Christmas Message (BBC)

The Queen reminisced about family Christmases of her youth, and welcomed the fact that her grandchildren were now able to join her. She paid tribute to Parliamentary democracy, expressing the ideal of the equality of all citizens under the law. She referred to her overseas visits, including Poland and the Czech Republic which had until 1989 been Communist controlled, and to the state visit to Britain of Nelson Mandela as an example of how to accept the facts of the past without bitterness and look forward with courage and optimism. She encouraged people not to look back and say "if only", but to look forward and say "if only".

The 1997 Christmas Message (ITN)

This message had a theme of the intertwining of joy and sadness. It opened with contrasting pictures of Westminster Abbey, which the Queen reminded viewers had that year been the scene of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales as well as the celebration of her Golden Wedding Anniversary. She paid tribute to Diana and spoke of the joy of her married life, and then reminded viewers of the fire at Windsor Castle before showing them the restored rooms after their completion. She then reminded viewers of her trips to Canada, India and Pakistan, and to Hong Kong to mark its return to China, before paying tribute to the Commonwealth Prime Minister's gathering. Viewers saw her meeting with Nelson Mandela. At the conclusion, Her Majesty welcomed the imminent devolution of power to Scotland and Wales, and spoke of the benefits of being a United Kingdom.

The 2001 Christmas Message (ITN)

The Queen referred to the fact that the year 2001 had provided many people with an unusual number of trials and disasters. She made reference to the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak before coming to the September 11th attacks which reminded her of the plight of innocent victims. Viewers saw the occasion when The National Anthem of the USA, The Star-Spangled Banner, was played at the Changing of the Guard. Her Majesty then spoke of the importance of faith when drawing strength in troubled times, and paid tribute to those who work for others in the community. She called for strengthened communities in the months to come.

The 2003 Christmas Message (ITN)

The opening of this message was recorded at the Household Cavalry barracks in Windsor, a rare 'outside broadcast'. With many members of the Armed forces on foreign deployments, especially in Iraq, the Queen encouraged the audience to think of those not with their families at Christmas, and paid tribute to the work they had done to bring peace. She also spoke of the importance of teamwork and of what she had learned when presenting the new Queen's Golden Jubilee Award for Voluntary Service in the Community.

The 2004 Christmas Message (BBC)

The 2004 Christmas Message—The Queen's 52nd such Message—started, as usual, with the national anthem, God Save the Queen, and then moved on to footage of Her Majesty handing out presents to her own family. In the radio version broadcasted by BBC Radio 4, the national anthem is heard after the message. The theme of the message was cultural and religious diversity and the benefits of tolerance. It was interspersed with coverage of The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles attending various multicultural meetings, including footage of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh visiting a Sikh Gurdwara (temple), and the Prince of Wales visiting a school for Muslims in east London.


The message was warmly received by leaders of Britain's Muslim community, with Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, saying that the Queen's words carried a "very powerful message" that is very timely and "duly reflects British society and that of the Commonwealth in that it shows we are a multicultural society". Zaki Badawi, founder of the Muslim College in London, also welcomed the Message. He said: "The Crown belongs to all of us. Whatever our religious belief, our racial origin or country of birth, we can express our loyalty to the Crown, and the crown extends its care to all of us."

The president of Guru Nanak gurdwara in south Birmingham, and a leading Sikh critic of the controversial play Behzti, Mohan Singh, said "It is great that someone with such a high position in authority is saying these things." He said tolerance was "core to [their] beliefs" in the Sikh faith, and that the Queen had probably "focused on multiculturalism because of what is happening in Iraq and the response in Britain, and perhaps what happened with the Sikh play in Birmingham. When you see the bad aspects of any religion or culture being portrayed all the time, that breeds intolerance, and she is trying to address that, which should be commended."

The speech was denounced by some right-wingers, with Stuart Millson writing a critical article in Right Now!.

The 2005 Christmas Message (ITN)

The 2005 message was particularly sombre, with the Queen reflecting on such tragedies as the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 7 July 2005 London bombings. She also praised as "quite remarkable" the humanitarian responses from people of all faiths.

Although the message was on the whole well received, there was comment in many national newspapers following the broadcast on the absence of any mention of the Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles, with some describing it as a "snub".

Alternative Christmas message

Since 1993, Channel 4 has broadcast an "Alternative Christmas message" featuring a contemporary, often controversial celebrity, delivering a message in the manner of Her Majesty. This tradition started by accident when, running a series of programmes on 'Christmas in New York', the channel invited Quentin Crisp to give an Alternative message - playing on the pejorative term 'Queen' meaning a male homosexual. In contrast to the Queen's message, the alternative lasts only 3 to 5 minutes.

List of Alternative Message Presenters

  • 1993 - Quentin Crisp
    1994 - Rev Jesse Jackson
    1995 - Brigitte Bardot
    1996 - Rory Bremner (as Diana, Princess of Wales)
    1997 - Margaret Gibney, a Belfast schoolgirl broadcast a plea for peace in Northern Ireland
    1998 - Doreen Lawrence and Neville Lawrence, parents of Stephen Lawrence
    1999 - Ali G
    2000 - Helen Jeffries, mother of a CJD victim
    2001 - Genelle Guzman, World Trade Center terrorist attacks survivor
    2002 - Sharon Osbourne
    2003 - Barry and Michelle Seabourn, a Merseyside couple who appeared on Channel 4 reality show Wife Swap.
    2004 - Marge Simpson
    2005 - Jamie Oliver

2004 Alternative Message

Marge was chosen to give the message due to Channel 4's recent acquisition of rights to broadcast The Simpsons.

In it she commented on David and Victoria Beckham's marriage in a negative comparison with hers and Homer's, and compared the special relationship between the UK and the US to that of Mini Me and Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers films ("Helping out in all our zany schemes to take over the world"). Lisa Simpson also held a banner supporting Cornwall's secession: "UK OUT OF CORNWALL," while chanting "Rydhsys rag Kernow lemmyn" (freedom for Cornwall now).

2005 Alternative Message

The majority of Jamie Oliver's message was in the form of a comedy sketch, where he was a school cook preparing junk food, including "Turkey Twangers", for children. This turned out to be a nightmare, and he awoke to give a message about his wish for the new year being for British children to be fed better. He was chosen to deliver the message following his successful Jamie's School Dinners series. The broadcast also featured actress Jessica Stevenson as a dinnerlady.

For the first time, sister channel E4 broadcast an "alternative to the alternative message", delivered by Avid Merrion, the creation of comedian Leigh Francis from the series Bo' Selecta!.


In Spain King Juan Carlos I issues a New Year's Eve message of a similar tone that is broadcasted simultaneously by most of the Spanish TV channels. The presidents of the autonomous communities that have a local TV channel air their messages on Christmas Eve.

In Canada the Governor General of Canada issues a New Year's Eve message of a similar tone that is broadcasted simultaneously by Radio-Canada and the CBC.

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Christmas Guide, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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