Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, be plenteous in mercy is to have the real spirit of Christmas. Calvin Coolidge.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Queen's Christmas Broadcasts

                                         The Queen's Christmas Broadcasts                                       

After the death of George VI in February 1952, The Queen broadcast her first Christmas message. She spoke of carrying on the tradition passed on to her by the late King:
"Each Christmas, at this time, my beloved Father broadcast a message to his people in all parts of the world ... As he used to do, I am speaking to you from my own home, where I am spending Christmas with my family ... My Father [King George VI], and my Grandfather [King George V] before him, worked hard 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."
A BBC report at the time also noted the continuation of tradition:
"She used the same desk and chair as her father King George VI and his father King George V had done.
In clear, firm tones she thanked her subjects for their "loyalty and affection" since her accession to the throne 10 months ago and promised to continue the work of her father and grandfather to unite the nations of the British Commonwealth and Empire.
She asked them to pray for her on coronation day next summer.
Throughout her reign The Queen has made a Broadcast every year except one. No Christmas Broadcast took place in 1969 because a repeat of the documentary Royal Family was already scheduled for the holiday period.
Public concern at this apparent break with tradition prompted The Queen to issue a written message of reassurance that the Broadcast would return in the following year, so popular had it become.
The first televised message was broadcast live in 1957. The advent of television during The Queen's reign has given an added dimension to her Broadcasts. It has allowed viewers to see The Queen in her own residences, decorated for Christmas like many homes across the world.

The Queen's Christmas Broadcast of 1957:

The location is usually Buckingham Palace, but recordings have also been made at Windsor and Sandringham. In 2003 the message was filmed at Combermere Barracks in Windsor - the first time the address had been shot entirely on location. Footage from the year's Royal events is often shown, enabling the public to see the highlights of the Royal year.

From 1960, Broadcasts were recorded in advance so that the tapes could be sent around the world to 17 Commonwealth countries, to be broadcast at a convenient local time.
Although technology has advanced, the workload for all involved, including The Queen, is still considerable.
Planning starts early with The Queen's choice of a theme which she wishes to address. Appropriate footage is then filmed during various public engagements - and occasionally private events - during the remainder of the year. Since 1997, the BBC and ITV have alternated in filming and producing the Broadcast every two years; the 2009 Broadcast is being filmed by the ITV.
The actual message is recorded a few days before Christmas, and lasts up to 10 minutes.
This year marks The Queen's 58th Christmas Broadcast. Over the years, the Broadcasts have chronicled both the life of the nation and of The Monarchy; the Broadcast is one of the rare occasions when The Queen does not speak on Government advice. Instead, The Queen gives her own views on events and developments which are of concern both to Her Majesty and her public, in the UK and wider afield in the Commonwealth.
In 1966, for example, during a decade which saw great changes for women, The Queen spoke about the important role of women in society:
"This year I should like to speak especially to women.
In the modern world the opportunities for women to give something of value to the human family are greater than ever, because, through their own efforts, they are now beginning to play their full part in public life."
Whilst in 1983, when the computer age was in its infancy, Her Majesty spoke of the very modern technologies which were helping to transmit her Broadcast, but warned against allowing these technologies to replace human interaction and compassion:
"This mastery of technology may blind us to the more fundamental needs of people. Electronics cannot create comradeship; computers cannot generate compassion; satellites cannot transmit tolerance."

The Queen is ever conscious of her role as Head of the Armed Forces in her Christmas Broadcasts. British and Commonwealth troops serving overseas over the Christmas period and their families are uppermost in Her Majesty's mind.
In 1990, she spoke of the threat of war in the Middle East:
"The servicemen in the Gulf who are spending Christmas at their posts under this threat are much in our thoughts. And there are many others, at home and abroad, servicemen and civilians, who are away from their own firesides."
And in 2003, with conflict again in the Middle East, a special Broadcast from the Household Cavalry Barracks in Windsor was arranged at The Queen's request:
"I want to draw attention to the many servicemen and women who are stationed far from home this Christmas. I'm thinking about their wives and children and about their parents and friends."
As the Christmas Broadcast is Her Majesty's own personal message to the nation, The Queen has occasionally shared personal concerns with her listeners. Her Majesty's personal experiences are always related back to those of the public to whom she is speaking.
In her 1990 Christmas broadcast, for example, she spoke of the happy family events which had taken place that year:
"My family ... has been celebrating my mother's Ninetieth Birthday, and we have shared with you the joy of some of those celebrations. My youngest grandchild's Christening, two days ago, has brought the family together once again. I hope that all of us lucky enough to be able to enjoy such gatherings this Christmas will take time to count our blessings."
In 2002, another Jubilee year, Her Majesty spoke of her grief at the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret, thanking the public for their messages of support:
"At such a difficult time this gave me great comfort and inspiration as I faced up both to my own personal loss and to the busy Jubilee summer ahead."
In both of her Jubilee years - 1977 and 2002, The Queen has used the Christmas Broadcast to thank the public for their part in the festivities. In 2002 she said:
"The celebrations were joyous occasions but they also seemed to evoke something more lasting and profound - a sense of belonging and pride in country, town, or community."
With technological advances meaning that viewers have a choice of format - television, radio or internet, the Christmas Broadcast is more accessible than ever. The technology has changed but, at broadcasters' request, the timing remains at 3.00pm as a fixed point in the schedules.
The establishment of the Christmas Broadcast as an annual tradition creates a sense of continuity for many. Though each year's theme is chosen by The Queen and reflects her own interests, it is always motivated by compassion and concern for her people.
For The Queen, the Broadcast is not only a duty to be fulfilled, it is an opportunity to speak directly to the public, to react to their concerns and to thank and reassure them. In this way, the Christmas Broadcast helps to reinforce The Queen's role as a focus for national unity.

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