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Royal Christmas

The very special history of the royal Christmas Day speech

For seventy years, Queen Elizabeth II was a staple of Christmas Day, appearing on television, radio and on the internet throughout her reign to deliver her annual Christmas Message. Now, it is King Charles who speaks to country and Commonwealth on Christmas Day. But this tradition is very much a Windsor one. It began with His Majesty’s great-grandfather, King George V, and continued through his grandfather, King George VI via radio broadcast then on into the historic reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

King George V delivered the first Christmas Message in 1932 (fun fact: it was written by author Rudyard Kipling) and spoke of the technology that made him “enabled, this Christmas Day, to speak to all my peoples throughout the Empire. I take it as a good omen that Wireless should have reached its present perfection at a time when the Empire has been linked in closer union. For it offers us immense possibilities to make that union closer still.”

King George VI delivered radio speeches each Christmas and spoke each year of the Second World Ward. In 1939 he talked about the War, stating, “A new year is at hand. We cannot tell which it will bring. If it brings peace how thankful we shall all be. If it brings continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted.”

However, it was Elizabeth II who would turn the Christmas Day message into an unmissable part of the UK’s celebrations.

It wasn’t until Queen Elizabeth’s 1957 Christmas Message that they became televised.

Queen Elizabeth II always made a point to show her sympathy to those who are less fortunate, or who had suffered tragedies that year. She always mentioned the unity of the Commonwealth, and she always made time for personal highlights from the year.

And in the last years of her reign, her wise words brought much comfort with many tuning in on December 25th 2020 to hear her speak once more of hope in the midst of the pandemic that had changed the lives of everyone throughout the year before.

Her Late Majesty’s last Christmas speech, on December 25th 2021, was her most poignant as she paid tribute to Prince Philip who had died in April 2021.

On Christmas Day 2022, it was their eldest son, Charles III, who paid tribute to them both as he made his first festive address.

About author

Jess Ilse is the Assistant Editor at Royal Central. She specialises in the British, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Royal Families and has been following royalty since Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Jess has provided commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Jess works in communications and her debut novel THE MAJESTIC SISTERS will publish in Fall 2024.