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Tuesday, 25 December, 2001, 16:26 GMT
The tradition of the Queen's speech
Queen Elizabeth II at Christmas, 1992
The Queen said 1992 had been 'annus horribilus'
The Queen's message to the Commonwealth on December 25 has become as traditional a part of the British Christmas as roast turkey and Christmas pudding.

Millions of people across the United Kingdom turn on the television to watch the Queen sum up the year and offer the season's greetings to her subjects.

Millions more around the world listen to the speech on their radios and, nowadays, on the Internet.

The tradition was begun by the Queen's grandfather, King George V, in 1932. In the early days, the message went out live but from 1960 onwards it was recorded a few days in advance.

In the past, most of the speeches have been regarded as uncontroversial, even a little dull. The notable exception was the 1992 broadcast - the Queen labelled that year an "annus horribilis".

A royal Christmas

In 1932 when King George V made the first royal Christmas broadcast to what was then the British Empire, it was transmitted live from his small study at Sandringham, in Norfolk, where the royal family always spend their Christmas holidays.

The speech was scripted by the famous author, Rudyard Kipling, and began with the words: "I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all."

Queen Elizabeth II made her first Christmas broadcast on BBC radio in 1952. Her first televised speech took place in 1957.

The contents of the speech are always top secret until it is first transmitted. In 1987 the BBC hit the headlines when its royal correspondent of the time, Michael Cole, accidentally revealed some of its contents.
King George V
King George V made the first royal Christmas broadcast in 1932

In her 1992 "annus horribilus" speech, the Queen, expressed her sorrow at a year which saw the break-up of two family marriages, one divorce and the fire at Windsor Castle.

That year, as in many others, she began with references to Sandringham and her own family: "I first came here for Christmas as a grandchild. Nowadays my children come here for the same family festival. To me this continuity is a great source of comfort in a world of tension and violence."

She then went on to speak of how the "sombre year" had been put into perspective by the example of a close friend, who, suffering from a terminal illness had continued to put others first.

This was also the year in which the Sun newspaper printed leaked details of the speech on December 23, much to the dismay of Buckingham Palace.

The message in the making

The speech has traditionally been filmed in great secrecy at Sandringham in the week before Christmas. But in recent years it has been filmed at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace.

The Queen speaks directly to camera and the package usually features royal footage from the year. It is sent in advance around the world to 17 Commonwealth countries, to be broadcast at a convenient local time.

As a result of leaks in the press in previous years, many media outlets do not receive the text of the Queen's address until late on Christmas Eve.
BBC Television Centre
The BBC lost exclusive broadcasting rights in 1995

The speech was traditionally produced by the BBC but in recent years the job has been shared with Independent Television News (ITN) on a rotating basis.

When Buckingham Palace decided to end the BBC's monopoly on the rights to produce the speech, it was seen by some as a deliberate snub in retaliation for its Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales in November 1995, which was not sanctioned by Buckingham Palace.

However the palace denied that a slight was intended and said that it had been considering for some time how to involve the ITV network as well as the BBC, "so that the arrangements reflect the composition of the television and radio industries today".

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