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Royal Christmas

When did royal Christmas speeches start across Europe?

While one might think the UK had the first royal Christmas speech, that honour goes to the Netherlands.

Queen Wilhelmina gave the first royal Christmas speech in 1931 on the radio before King George V in the UK followed suit a year later. Since then, monarchs from both countries have continued the tradition – first on radio and later on television.

Besides the Netherlands and the UK, other royal Christmas speeches began in various years. In Belgium, it began in 1959 with King Baudoin drawing inspiration from his British counterpart.

Sweden did things differently. The first royal Christmas address was made by Prince Wilhelm in English and Swedish. Later, King Gustaf VI Adolf gave his first speech in 1951. He did the same in 1957, 1964, 1966 and 1969. In 1955, Prince Bertil gave the address. King Carl XVI Gustaf gave his first Christmas speech in 1972 when he was Crown Prince. He’s given a yearly address since; the first televised address took place rather late by royal standards – in 2007.

Due to the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, the first royal Christmas speech didn’t take place until Christmas Eve 1975 when King Juan Carlos ascended the throne after the death of the dictator. Franco originally began the speech as a New Year’s Eve speech in 1937, but Juan Carlos wanted to deviate from Franco’s tradition and switched the speech to Christmas Eve.

The royal New Year speech for Denmark began in 1942 with King Christian X on the radio before the first television address in 1958. Norway’s King Haakon VII started the Norwegian royal New Year/Christmas speech in 1945 with Crown Prince Olav by his side on the radio; television addresses began in 1960.

No matter when the royal Christmas and New Year speeches first began, they are enjoyed by millions across the globe now who tune in to hear the special messages each year.

About author

Brittani is from Tennessee, USA. She is a political scientist and historian after graduating with a degree in the topics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in December 2014. She also holds a master's degree from Northeastern University. She enjoys reading and researching all things regarding the royals of the world. She's been researching, reading, and writing on royalty for over a decade. She became Europe Editor in October 2016, and then Deputy Editor in January 2019, and has been featured on several podcasts, radio shows, news broadcasts and websites including Global News Canada, ABC News Australia, WION India and BBC World News.