The Queen’s most memorable Christmas speeches from Dianas death to annus horribilis

For the last 70 years, one staple of the Christmas calendar, has always been The Queen ’s annual speech to the nation on Christmas Day.

During the short televised speech, the Queen articulately and compassionately reflected on the past 12 months, as she helped the country to navigate a variety of highs and lows during her time on the throne.

However, following the monarch’s sad death at the age of 96 earlier this year, the longstanding tradition has come to an end, with 2022 marking the return of the King’s speech in its place for the first time since 1951.

Ahead of the historic occasion, we take a look back at some of The Queen’s best Christmas speeches during her enduring reign.

1952


Just 10 months after becoming the reigning monarch, The Queen delivered her first Christmas address to the nation in 1952 – before she was even formally crowned.

Broadcast live on the radio from her study at Sandwringham, the message featured a poignant tribute to her “beloved” late father, King George VI as well as a personal reflection on the months following her accession to the throne.

During the speech, Her Majesty described belonging to the "far larger family" of the Commonwealth, while also personally thanking the general public for their warm reception and “loyalty and affection” during the first few months of her new role as Queen.

In a touching moment, she even asked them to pray for her ahead of her June coronation, as she added: "You will be keeping it as a holiday, but I want to ask you all, whatever your religion may be, to pray for me that day.”

1957


Five years after her maiden Christmas message as Queen, in a hugely historic moment, the annual Christmas address was televised for the very first time.

The year in particular was also a milestone, as it marked the 25th anniversary of the annual Christmas message, since her father began the custom in 1932.

By switching to a televised address, the Queen admitted she hoped it would make her message "more personal and direct” as she had previously been a “remote figure” in the lives of many of her subjects.

"It is inevitable that I should seem a rather remote figure for many of you," she said.

"But now at least for a few minutes I welcome you to the peace of my own home.”

During the same speech, Queen Elizabeth also praised the advances of technology but also warned that "ageless ideals” should not be forgotten in their wake.

She also took a moment to congratulate both Ghana and Malaysia for gaining independence and read an extra from the poem Pilgrim’s Progress.



1967


Fast forward ten years to the next milestone broadcast in 1967, when the Queen made her Christmas address in full colour for the first ever time.

From 1960 onwards, the previously live broadcasts were now pre-recorded in the days immediately prior to Christmas, a tradition which has continued ever since.

During her speech, the Queen reflected on the centenary of Canada’s Confederation and also offered a fond insight into her five week tour of the country with Prince Philip.

The same year, she also knighted Sir Francis Chichester the first man to sail solo around the world in his boat the Gipsy Moth IV.

In a nod to the evolving nature of the world, she aptly told viewers: "No matter what scientific progress we make, the message will count for nothing unless we can achieve real peace and encourage genuine goodwill between people and the nations of the world.”

1967 also marked the first time the message was filmed at Buckingham Palace.



1969


In a break from tradition, in 1969 there was no Christmas message given by the Queen.

Instead, a special documentary called Royal Family was aired to mark the investiture of Charles as the Prince of Wales.

She did however, pen a letter to the public which reflected on many of the historic moments of the past decade, including Neil Armstrong’s iconic first steps on the moon, as well as the far more poignant aftermath of the Aberfan disaster.



1992


Stepping away from the usual joy of her typical Christmas messages, 1992 was a far more bleak affair for the Queen after she suffered a trying 12 months, riddled with misfortune.

Describing the year as an “annus horribilis” at the Guildhall earlier in the year, the mood was reflected in the Queen’s speech as she battled to overcome a number of hardships including a fire which destroyed part of Windsor castle, the divorces of three of her children, as well as the ongoing drama surrounding Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ high profile split.

In her Christmas speech, the Queen described it as a "sombre year”, but did also add a touch of optimism as she vowed to “put it behind us” as she looked towards the future.

Ahead of the official reveal of the speech on Christmas Day, the entirety of the speech was leaked and published in The Sun newspaper, leading the paper to fork out a hefty £200,000 in damages for breach of copyright.

The paper managed to settle the claim out of court, with the money paid going to charity.



1997


Five years later, with repair work following the Windsor Castle fire finally completed, the broadcast was delivered from the White Drawing Room.

The speech was once again plagued by both tragedy and joy as it was primarily dominated by thoughts of Princess Diana’s death earlier that Summer.

Describing the loss as “unbearably sad” the Queen took a moment to also pay tribute to others who may have lost someone that year, as she pledged her thought and warmest wishes to anyone that was "alone, bereaved or suffering”.

Alongside the sad reflection on Diana’s death, The Queen also celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary to Prince Philip, as she added: "This interweaving of joy and woe has been very much brought home to me and my family during the last months.”

Her Majesty also paid tribute to both India and Pakistan as they celebrated 50 years of independence.

It was also the first year that the Christmas message was made available on the internet.


1999


Just weeks before the millennium, the Queen’s speech for 1999, reflected on the "pace of change” at which the world was changing.

Mentioning her mother’s 99th birthday in August, she even noted how "different were her early years compared with those of my grandchildren”.

In a moving and relatable moment, the Queen also provided a voice of hope to elderly members of the community, as she said at 73 many people of her age feared being “left behind” but added that they shouldn’t be anxious as they try to "make sense of the future”.

Making reference to Winston Churchill, she continued: "Winston Churchill, my first prime minister, said that 'the further backward you look, the further forward you see.’ ”

She also urged people not to be blinded by “new gadgets” and to continue adhering to the Christian doctrine of “love thy neighbour.”



2006


In keeping with the times, by 2006, the Queen’s speech was available as a podcast for the first time.

It was also recorded at Southwark Cathedral in London for the first time, after the Queen had spent some time meeting with children working on the Nativity performance.

Praising their "energy, vitality and ambition to learn and to travel” she also reflected on just how much both young and old could learn from each other.

She said: she said: "I am reminded of a lady of about my age who was asked by an earnest, little granddaughter the other day, 'Granny, can you remember the Stone Age?’”

"Whilst that may be going a bit far the older generation are able to give a sense of context as well as the wisdom of experience which can be invaluable."




2012


In a year that saw London host the Olympic Games and the Queen take part in a James Bond themed stunt alongside Daniel Craig, the monarch paid tribute to all those who had made the games possible.

Praising both the Olympics and Paralympics as a "splendid summer of sport” she singled out the volunteers in particular for having made the event such a roaring success as she thanked the “army of volunteers.”

"Those public-spirited people came forward in the great tradition of all those who devote themselves to keeping others safe, supported and comforted," she said.

2012 was also the very first time The Queen's speech was released in 3D!



2017


In 2017, the country was once again dogged by tragedy following the Manchester Arena bombing and the Grenfell Tower fire.

Focusing on the theme of “home” and “unity” the Queen spoke candidly and compassionately as she praised both Manchester and London as their "powerful identities shone through… in the face of appalling attacks”.

The Queen also took some time to visit survivors of the bombing in the days following the attack which she described as a “privilege".

"The patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience," she said.

She also noted how the “sheer awfulness” of Grenfell had taken the lives of 72 people as she took a moment to the thank the firefighters who would “not be home today because they are working to protect us”.

2017 also marked 60 years since the first televised broadcast, something the Queen ruefully remarked on as she added: "Six decades on, the presenter of that broadcaster has 'evolved' somewhat.”

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