This year, for the first time in 70 years, there will be a Christmas broadcast from a King.
The first ever Christmas message was broadcast by King Charles’ great-grandfather George V ninety years ago in 1932.
But for the past seventy years, the late Queen Elizabeth has provided that note of unity and stability at 3pm on Christmas Day.
She made her first Christmas broadcast in 1952, with her forthcoming coronation obviously preying on her mind, as she called on the peoples of the Commonwealth to pray for her on June 2 1953.
Queen promised faithful service
“Pray that God might give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve him and you all the days of my life,” she said.
Perhaps King Charles III also make reference to his forthcoming coronation, on Saturday May 6 2023.
Queen Elizabeth’s enduring commitment to public service was once again made to her people —something that resonates strongly so soon after her death when it was clear that she had fulfilled that promise to the very last.
In her message of ‘affectionate greetings’ the Queen pledged to strive to carry on the work and ideals of her father and grandfather.
“Already you have given me strength to do so,” she declared, “For since my accession ten months ago, your loyalty and affection have been an immense support and encouragement.
“I want to take this Christmas Day, my first opportunity, to thank you with all my heart.”
Queen Elizabeth made her broadcast from the study at Sandringham House.
In the drawing room, the broadcast was heard by the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, Queen Mary, the Royal children of the time Prince Charles and Princess Anne; and the Michael and Alexandra, the Duke and Duchess of Kent.
Why didn’t the Queen broadcast in 1969?
From 1952 until her death, Queen Elizabeth only missed one Christmas broadcast, in 1969.
That was the year that the ground-breaking documentary The Royal Family aired in the UK, to the third largest audience ever recorded in Britain, beaten only by the 1966 World Cup and the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.
The Royal Family was shown in 125 countries.
In the UK it was such a success that Queen Elizabeth feared the family would be over-exposed and decided not to make her annual Christmas broadcast that year, the only one she ever missed.
In full: Queen Elizabeth’s first-ever Christmas message
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.
As he used to do, I am speaking to you from my own home, where I am spending Christmas with my family; and let me say at once how I hope that your children are enjoying themselves as much as mine are on a day which is especially the children’s festival, kept in honour of the Child born at Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago.
Most of you to whom I am speaking will be in your own homes, but I have a special thought for those who are serving their country in distant lands far from their families.
Wherever you are, either at home or away, in snow or in sunshine, I give you my affectionate greetings, with every good wish for Christmas and the New Year.
At Christmas our thoughts are always full of our homes and our families. This is the day when members of the same family try to come together, or if separated by distance or events meet in spirit and affection by exchanging greetings.
But we belong, you and I, to a far larger family. We belong, all of us, to the British Commonwealth and Empire, that immense union of nations, with their homes set in all the four corners of the earth. Like our own families, it can be a great power for good – a force which I believe can be of immeasurable benefit to all humanity.
My father, and my grandfather before him, worked all their lives to unite our peoples ever more closely, and to maintain its ideals which were so near to their hearts. I shall strive to carry on their work.
Already you have given me strength to do so. For, since my accession ten months ago, your loyalty and affection have been an immense support and encouragement. I want to take this Christmas Day, my first opportunity, to thank you with all my heart.
Many grave problems and difficulties confront us all, but with a new faith in the old and splendid beliefs given us by our forefathers, and the strength to venture beyond the safeties of the past, I know we shall be worthy of our duty.
Above all, we must keep alive that courageous spirit of adventure that is the finest quality of youth; and by youth I do not just mean those who are young in years; I mean too all those who are young in heart, no matter how old they may be. That spirit still flourishes in this old country and in all the younger countries of our Commonwealth.
On this broad foundation let us set out to build a truer knowledge of ourselves and our fellowmen, to work for tolerance and understanding among the nations and to use the tremendous forces of science and learning for the betterment of man’s lot upon this earth.
If we can do these three things with courage, with generosity and with humility, then surely we shall achieve that “Peace on earth, Goodwill toward men” which is the eternal message of Christmas, and the desire of us all.
At my Coronation next June, I shall dedicate myself anew to your service. I shall do so in the presence of a great congregation, drawn from every part of the Commonwealth and Empire, while millions outside Westminster Abbey will hear the promises and the prayers being offered up within its walls, and see much of the ancient ceremony in which Kings and Queens before me have taken part through century upon century.
You will be keeping it as a holiday; but I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me on that day – to pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life.
May God bless and guide you all through the coming year.
Fast-forward to Queen Elizabeth’s final broadcast
Queen Elizabeth recorded what was to be her last Christmas broadcast in the White Drawing Room in Windsor Castle in 2021.
On her desk was a photograph of herself with the Duke of Edinburgh, taken in 2007 at Broadlands, Hampshire to mark their diamond wedding anniversary.
She died at the age of 96 in September 2022.
Following the death of his mother, King Charles III will address the nation on Christmas Day.