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British Royals

The three years that a Monarch has decided not to deliver a Christmas Day speech

It’s been a popular Christmas tradition for almost a century. The Christmas Day broadcast by the Monarch is a staple of many a British festive celebration. George V began what would become a high point of the royal year in 1932 when he was persuaded to broadcast a message on Christmas Day.

It was transmitted on the relatively new BBC in the year that it launched its ‘Empire Service’, a forerunner of the World Service. But it proved so popular that King George returned the following year and very soon, it was a very definite Christmas tradition. In fact, it took root so quickly that it survived a hiatus in the early years. There have been just a handful of times that the Monarch hasn’t broadcast to the country on Christmas Day since 1932. Here are the missing years of the Christmas Day speech.

The year of Abdication – 1936

Christmas 1936 was a tumultuous time for the Royal Family. King George V had died on January 20th and his successor, Edward VIII, abdicated on December 10th. The Christmas broadcast was still live at the time so no version had been recorded by Edward before he gave up his throne. It was decided that his successor, George VI, would not speak that festive season. The United Kingdom had had three kings in one year and the fallout from the Abdication meant there was no Christmas speech that year.

The final time a king missed a speech – 1938

King George VI delivered his first Christmas address in 1937, in the year of his Coronation and just weeks after the first anniversary of his unexpected accession to the throne. He thanked people for their support and promised to uphold the dedication and duty of his father, King George V. The following year, 1938, would be the last time that George VI missed a Christmas speech.

A decision to remain in the background – 1969

The only time that Elizabeth II missed the Christmas broadcast was in 1969 when she decided not to record an address but to release a written message instead. Earlier in the year, the Royal Family had featured in a documentary that had followed them in their everyday lives and Her Late Majesty decided that everyone had seen more than enough of them all for one year.

King Charles III will make his second Christmas speech in 2023 and, so far, remains the only Monarch of the House of Windsor with a 100% record in delivering them.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.