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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 December 2005, 12:07 GMT
Royal message is 73-year tradition
The Queen's Christmas message to the nation saw her carrying on a tradition tentatively started by her grandfather 73 years ago.

The Queen with choristers from Her Majesty's Chapel Royal who appear in her Christmas Day broadcast
The Queen writes her own Christmas Day messages

King George V delivered the first festive Royal message broadcast live on radio from the Sandringham estate in Norfolk in 1932.

He read a message composed by the author Rudyard Kipling.

The original idea had been suggested by founding father of the BBC Sir John Reith to inaugurate the Empire Service, now the BBC World Service.

George V was initially hesitant about using the relatively untried medium of the wireless, but eventually agreed.

In the same year the time of 1500 GMT was set because it was considered best for reaching most of the countries in the British Empire by shortwave.

Boosting morale

The outbreak of war in 1939 firmly established the tradition of the Christmas message after George VI used it to boost morale and reassure the nation.

The king died in February 1952, at the age of 55, and his daughter Queen Elizabeth II gave her first Christmas message the following December.

She has delivered one every year except in 1969, when following an unprecedented documentary about the Royal Family she decided they had been on television enough that year.

The Queen writes her own Christmas speeches and it is one of the rare occasions when she does not seek government advice and is able to voice her own views.

This year's message focused on the natural disasters and terror acts which dominated 2005.

King George VI with Prince Charles
King George VI used radio messages to help boost morale

Over the years, she has commented about world events and tragedies as well as drawing from her personal experiences.

In 2003, she paid tribute to Britain's armed forces who helped overthrow Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein. The broadcast was filmed at an army barracks in Windsor, the first message filmed entirely on location.

She spoke of her grief at losing both her mother, the Queen Mother, as well as her sister Princess Margaret in 2002, and a year earlier talked about the pain suffered by people affected by the 11 September attacks in the US.

In 1992 the Queen famously looked back on the year which had seen the breakdown in the marriages of both Prince Charles and Prince Andrew and a fire a Windsor Castle and described it as "annus horribilus".

The Queen chooses a theme for each message. In 1966, she spoke about the important and increasingly prominent role women played in society.

In 1984, she spoke about the lessons adults can learn from children.

Since 1997 the BBC and ITV have alternated in producing the programme every two years.

Alternative broadcast

Millions of people watch the monarch's broadcast and for many UK families, tuning in is among their Christmas traditions.

Since 1993, Channel 4 has offered some competition with its 'alternative Christmas message' which coincides with the Queen's broadcast.

Over the years, the channel has included broadcasts from writer and humourist Quentin Crisp, film star Brigitte Bardot and comedian Ali G.

This year the task fell to chef Jamie Oliver who addressed the nation about healthy eating.



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