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The Queen's Christmas Broadcast 2017


"Sixty years ago today, a young woman spoke about the speed of technological change as she presented the first television broadcast of its kind."*

"Television has made it possible for many of you to see me in your homes on Christmas Day. My own family often gather round to watch television, as they are at this moment. And that is how I imagine you now.

Back then, who could have imagined that people would one day be watching this on laptops and mobile phones, as some of you are today?

But I'm also struck by something that hasn't changed - that whatever the technology, many of you will be watching this at home.

We think of our homes as places of warmth, familiarity and love - of shared stories and memories - which is perhaps why, at this time of year, so many return to where they grew up. There is a timeless simplicity to the pull of home. For many, the idea of home reaches beyond a physical building, to a home town or city.

This Christmas, I think of London and Manchester, whose powerful identities shone through over the past 12 months, in the face of appalling attacks. In Manchester, those targeted included children who had gone to see their favourite singer.

A few days after the bombing, I had the privilege of meeting some of the young survivors and their parents.

I described that hospital visit as a privilege because the patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience. Indeed, many of those who survived the attack came together just days later for a benefit concert. It was a powerful reclaiming of the ground and of the city those young people call home.

We expect our homes to be a place of safety - sanctuary, even - which makes it all the more shocking when the comfort they provide is shattered. A few weeks ago, the Prince of Wales visited the Caribbean in the aftermath of hurricanes that destroyed entire communities.

And here, in London, who can forget the sheer awfulness of the Grenfell Tower fire? Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who died and those who lost so much, and we are indebted to members of the emergency services who risked their own lives this past year, saving others.

Many of them, of course, will not be at home today, because they are working to protect us. Reflecting on these events makes me grateful for the blessings of home and family and, in particular, for 70 years of marriage. I don't know that anyone had invented the term 'platinum' for a 70th wedding anniversary. When I was born, you weren't expected to be around that long.

Even Prince Philip has decided it's time to slow down a little, having, as he economically put it, done his bit. But I know his support and unique sense of humour will remain as strong as ever as we enjoy spending time this Christmas with our family, and look forward to welcoming new members into it next year.

In 2018, I will open my home to a different type of family, the leaders of the 52 nations of the Commonwealth, as they gather in the UK for a summit.

The Commonwealth has an inspiring way of bringing people together, be it through the Commonwealth Games, which begin in a few months' time on Australia's Gold Coast, or through bodies like the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra and Choir - a reminder of how truly vibrant this international family is.

Today, we celebrate Christmas, which, itself, is sometimes described as a festival of the home. Families travel long distances to be together.

Volunteers and charities, as well as many churches, arrange meals for the homeless and those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution.

And, yet, it is Jesus Christ's generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. Whatever your own experience is this year, wherever and however you are watching, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas."




*For the Queen's Christmas Broadcast, 1957 - click HERE

History of the broadcast

The idea for a Christmas message from the sovereign to the British Empire was first proposed by the "founding father" of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), John Reith, in 1922 when he approached King George V about making a short broadcast on the newly created radio service.

The King declined, however, believing that radio was mainly an entertainment. Reith approached the King again ten years later, in 1932, as a way to inaugurate the Empire Service (now the World Service) and the King finally agreed after being encouraged to do so by Queen Mary[2] and Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.

That year, George V read the first Royal Christmas Message; the King was originally hesitant about using the relatively untested medium of radio, but was reassured after a summertime visit to the BBC and agreed to carry out the concept and read the speech from a temporary studio set up at Sandringham House.

The broadcast was introduced from Ilmington Manor by 65-year-old Walton Handy, a local shepherd, with carols from the church choir and the bells ringing from the town church, and reached an estimated 20 million people in Australia, Canada, India, Kenya, South Africa, and the UK.

While his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated just before his first Christmas as king, George VI continued his father's Christmas broadcasts; it was in his reading delivered in the opening stages of the Second World War that he uttered the famous lines: "I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year."

For many years, the King's speech came at the end of an hour-long broadcast of greeting from various parts of the British Empire and Commonwealth which typically included interviews with ordinary people of many occupations such as an innkeeper in an English village, a minder in South Africa, and a lifeguard in Australia with the King's speech serving as a bond tying the Commonwealth together.

George's daughter, Elizabeth II, gave her first Christmas message to the Commonwealth of Nations from her study at Sandringham House, at 3:07 PM on 25 December 1952, some 11 months after her father's death. By 1957, the broadcast became televised, and, from then until 1996, was produced by the BBC; only in 1969 was no message given because a special documentary film – Royal Family – had been made during the summer in connection with the Investiture of the Prince of Wales. It was therefore decided not to do a broadcast at Christmas, but the Queen issued a written message instead.

The Queen ended this monopoly, however, announcing that the message would, from 1997, be produced and broadcast alternately by the BBC and its main rival, Independent Television News (ITN), with a biennial rotation. It was reported by The Daily Telegraph that this decision was made after the BBC decided to screen an interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, on its current affairs programme Panorama.

This was denied by Buckingham Palace which said the new arrangements "reflect the composition of the television and radio industries today".[10] Beginning in 2011, Sky News was added to the rotation.

Sky News recorded the Queen's Christmas message for Christmas 2012, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year, and for the first time it has been recorded in 3D.[11] Buckingham Palace are reported to have explained: "We wanted to do something a bit different and special in this Jubilee year, so doing it for the first time in 3D seemed a good thing, technology wise, to do."

The themes and direction of the speech are decided by the Queen and the text is largely written by the Queen herself, sometimes with assistance by Prince Philip and her staff. In recent years, the speech has become more personal and religious in tone.




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