How the Queen’s speech has adapted since her maiden radio address in 1952 to a sleek TV production

The Queen’s Christmas Message is a staple of British Christmas tradition.

The monarch marks the festive season every year with a televised address to her subjects on Christmas Day at 3pm on the dot.

The tradition began in 1932 when King George V, Queen Victoria’s grandfather, used the radio to address his subjects.

He was convinced to do so by the founder of the BBC, Sir John Reith, who believed that an address by the Sovereign to inaugurate the Empire Service (which became the BBC World Service) would give it a kickstart.

Radio was still a relatively new medium at the time and the King had been initially skeptical about the suitability of an address but quickly grew to love the chance to talk to his subjects.

The first address was delivered live across the British Empire using General Post Offices who received the transmission from British shortwave transmitters.

The traditional time of 3pm for the broadcast was chosen to be at that time to allow as many people across the Empire to tune in.

King George’s address was the first time that many of his subjects had that level of access to the Sovereign.   

Addresses became firm favourites of Britons throughout World War Two as George V’s younger son, King George VI, used radio addresses to rouse the morale of war-weary nation.

1952: Months after the death of her father, King George VI, a 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth took on the daunting task of delivering the Christmas speech from Sandringham, pictured

1952: Months after the death of her father, King George VI, a 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth took on the daunting task of delivering the Christmas speech from Sandringham, pictured

When the 26-year-old Queen ascended to the throne in 1952, she used her first broadcast to thank the people of Britain for their support and asked them to pray for her ahead of her Coronation the following year.

Dressed in a classic suit, the Queen took her seat behind a desk at Sandringham, Norfolk, where equipment had been set up to record her message for radio. 

It came months after the premature death of her father and marked the most important address of the young monarch’s life since a radio speech on her 21st birthday in 1947 from South Africa.

She used the speech to also extend greetings to British servicepeople serving abroad. 

1957: The Queen made the decision to broadcast the Christmas message on both television and radio for the first time in 1957, following on from the television broadcast of her coronation in 1953 which was orchestrated by the Duke of Edinburgh

1957: The Queen made the decision to broadcast the Christmas message on both television and radio for the first time in 1957, following on from the television broadcast of her coronation in 1953 which was orchestrated by the Duke of Edinburgh

The first televised Christmas Message came in 1957 as the Queen followed on from her coronation in royal events that were broadcast on television.

She used the broadcast to showcase pictures of her children, the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne on the desk at Sandringham.

It was one of the few times that the broadcast was delivered lines and the producer for the address later said that the Queen was a natural with a teleprompter. 

1967: Ten years after the first televised broadcast in 1957, the Queen's Christmas speech was seen in colour for the first time

1967: Ten years after the first televised broadcast in 1957, the Queen’s Christmas speech was seen in colour for the first time

Some 10 years later the Queen’s Christmas broadcast was shown in colour for the first time.

She said: ‘Modern communications make it possible for me to talk to you in your homes and to wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.

These techniques of radio and television are modern, but the Christmas message is timeless.’  

The speech was recorded in Buckingham Palace, although the framed photos that now draw so much interest and symbolism were not included in the set-up as they were in 1957. 

In her speech, the Queen paid tribute to Canada on the centenary of its Confederation.

1971: The Queen with sons Prince Andrew, then 11, and Prince Edward, then seven, looking at a family photograph album, as she delivered a Christmas message focused on families

1971: The Queen with sons Prince Andrew, then 11, and Prince Edward, then seven, looking at a family photograph album, as she delivered a Christmas message focused on families

The Queen focussed on family in her 1971 speech, as she invited her youngest children, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, to browse through a photobook with her.

The speech was focussed on the theme of family and marked one of the only times that the broadcast had involved other royals.

The occassion marked a rare outing for the young princes as the Royal Family tend to remain largely private until they come of age. 

1975: The Queen wrapped up as she headed into the gardens of Buckingham Palace for her first outdoor broadcast in 1975

1975: The Queen wrapped up as she headed into the gardens of Buckingham Palace for her first outdoor broadcast in 1975

Breaking from the norm, the 1975 speech was broadcast from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, marking the first time it was recorded outdoors. 

The Queen wrapped up in a heavy coat to stay warm on the chilly and grey winter’s day.  

It was a year of record inflation and unemployment in the UK under prime minister Harold Wilson. and worldwide, to which The Queen referred. 

She said: ‘We are horrified by brutal and senseless violence, and above all the whole fabric of our lives is threatened by inflation, the frightening sickness of the world today.

‘Then Christmas comes, and once again we are reminded that people matter, and it is our relationship with one another that is most important.’ 

2006: In a break from the royal residences, the Queen filmed her message from Southwark Cathedral, where she met children working on a nativity collage

2006: In a break from the royal residences, the Queen filmed her message from Southwark Cathedral, where she met children working on a nativity collage

 In another break with tradition, the 2006 Christmas Message was filmed at Southwark Cathedral

It marked only the second time the speech was filmed outside of a royal residence.

The Queen donned a vibrant green skirt suit as she met children working on a nativity collage at the cathedral.

In her speech, the monarch thanked the public for the ‘very generous response’ to her 80th birthday.

 She also met children who were working on a nativity collage as part of the break from royal residences.

1997: The Queen's address in 1997 was overshadowed by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in August of that year, an event she acknowledged at the outset of her festive speech

1997: The Queen’s address in 1997 was overshadowed by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in August of that year, an event she acknowledged at the outset of her festive speech

The Queen’s address in 1997 was overshadowed by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in August of that year.

The months after Diana’s death saw intense criticism of the Sovereign who was pressured into a public showing of sorrow at the events.

After doing so, the Queen again acknowledged her sorrow at Diana’s passing by quoting a William Blake poem about the intertwining of joy and sorrow.

She also remarked that the year was not just sad as the monarch and Prince Philip celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary. 

2002: The Queen used her 2002 speech to reflect on the death of her mother, Queen Elizabeth, and sister Princess Margaret while also marking the end of her Golden Jubilee year

2002: The Queen used her 2002 speech to reflect on the death of her mother, Queen Elizabeth, and sister Princess Margaret while also marking the end of her Golden Jubilee year

The Queen’s sorrow was also a theme in the 2002 Christmas Message five years later.

The year had seen the passing of the Queen’s mother, the Queen Mother, and her only sister Princess Margaret.

Much like 1997, the Queen had also celebrated in the year of her Golden Jubilee.

In the speech, she expressed her sympathies for those who had also lost loved ones over the year and commented on the festivities over the Jubilee summer. 

2017: The Queen used her speech to welcome another new member to the family: Prince Harry's then new fiancee, Meghan. The actress' photo was seen left, out of this frame

2017: The Queen used her speech to welcome another new member to the family: Prince Harry’s then new fiancee, Meghan. The actress’ photo was seen left, out of this frame

The Queen used the 60th anniversary of her first broadcast in 2017 to welcome a new member of the Royal Family.

The Queen welcomed Prince Harry’s then new fiancee, Meghan by featuring a framed photo of the couple from their engagement shoot was on display alongside other family pictures.

The annual address was produced by Sky News and was recorded in the palace’s 1844 room which is decorated with a large tree and features family photos. 

2020: The Queen's role as a figure for national unity became even more important - showcased in the high viewing figures for her speech in 2020 at the height of the second wave of Covid infections

2020: The Queen’s role as a figure for national unity became even more important – showcased in the high viewing figures for her speech in 2020 at the height of the second wave of Covid infections

The Queen’s role as a figure for national unity became even more important during the pandemic. 

While still shielding from Covid at Sandringham in Norfolk, the Queen paid tribute to the sacrifices that young people had made to protect the old during the pandemic.

She spoke of the indomitable spirit of the British people and how they rose to the challenges that Covid posed.

This came in a year where the Queen made an extraordinary public address to the nation during the height of the pandemic’s first wave.

The monarch was widely praised for the leadership she showed when she drew upon the words of Dame Vera Lynn to rouse the isolated nations: ‘We’ll meet again’.

The speech was the most-watched television event of the Christmas period, indicating that a Covid-weary Britain was looking to the head of state for strength. 

2021: This year's Christmas message will be the Queen's first after the death of her husband Prince Philip in April

2021: This year’s Christmas message will be the Queen’s first after the death of her husband Prince Philip in April

This year’s Christmas message will be the Queen’s first following the death of her husband Prince Philip in April.

She is expected to give her address a more personal touch this year and reflect on the times they had together ahead of a celebration of his life in 2022.

The Queen’s message will air as she enjoys a scaled down Christmas at Clarence House with Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after cancelling plans to go to her traditional Christmas residence of Sandringham due to the Omicron wave of Covid. 

She will also pay a moving tribute to her ‘beloved’ Prince Philip in tomorrow’s message while wearing the sapphire brooch she donned on her honeymoon in 1947 and again for her diamond wedding anniversary in 2017.


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