Happy Boxing Day, everyone! I didn’t have time to write up two posts yesterday, so in a choice between the church walkabout and the Queen’s televised Christmas message I chose the former but we’re circling back today. The speech reflected on the passage of time on multiple fronts, beginning with the Queen’s first televised Christmas message which saw its 60th anniversary this year. The tradition of a holiday address dates back to the reign of the Queen’s grandfather, George V, however up until 1957 the medium by which the monarch reached the public was radio.
The Queen’s first five messages were also broadcast on radio, but in a nod to the rise of television, which the Royal Family had successfully leveraged during the 1953 coronation, the Palace switched formats. The idea behind the brief speech is to bring the sovereign into the homes of his or her people and to personalize the monarchy. Today we see images of the Windsors flashed about every which way, but that certainly wasn’t the case at the start of the Queen’s reign (at least not at this volume), and even now, it’s still a remarkable occasion to hear the Queen speak. Even more, to hear the Queen speak to “you.”
Her words are often laced with the personal, just as they were this year. This year, she acknowledged the major milestones from within her own family, such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s retirement this past summer, Prince Harry’s engagement, her own wedding anniversary and the coming arrival of the third Cambridge baby. She also appropriately nodded to the tragedy Britain has seen this year, from the horrifying Grenfell Tower fire in June to the terror attacks that occurred far too often across England.
In light of uneasiness in today’s world, there is something to be said for the themes of continuity and home that the Queen referenced. That is in a nutshell what the monarchy symbolizes for many – consistency, tradition and strength. Certainly it is for these traits this particular sovereign is justifiably credited.
The message was filmed at Buckingham Palace before the Queen left London. You’ll find the photos on her desk to be one of the anniversary photos of herself and Prince Philip, the famous shot from their wedding day and the two birthday pictures released for Prince George’s and Princess Charlotte’s birthdays. The full text of the speech and below and here is the broadcast:
Queen’s full Christmas message:
Sixty years ago today, a young woman spoke about the speed of technological change as she presented the first television broadcast of its kind. She described the moment as a landmark:
“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.”
Six decades on, the presenter has ‘evolved’ somewhat, as has the technology she described.
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 twelve 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 describe 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 70 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 fifty-two 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 & 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 experiences this year; wherever and however you are watching, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas.