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1992: Queen's Christmas speech leaked

A national newspaper has published the Queen's Christmas speech two days ahead of schedule sparking a full investigation from the BBC into the unprecedented leak.

Buckingham Palace today denounced as '"very regrettable" the publication of the Queen's traditional annual speech in the Sun newspaper ahead of its broadcast on the BBC.

It signalled a clampdown on the future advance availability of the speech to the world's press and warned other media organisations against reporting information from the newspaper.

The publication, spread across the centre pages of the newspaper, is virtually word-for-word the text of the five-minute broadcast, recorded at Sandringham.

There are some suggestions the broadcast may have been picked up by a satellite TV enthusiast who then passed it to the Sun. Others point to a BBC mole.

A total of 120 audio and video copies of the broadcast was distributed yesterday by satellite to media organisations.


The publication embargo spells out the radio broadcast should not be before 0900 GMT on Christmas Day and the television broadcast not before 1500.

Palace aides regard the broadcast as crown copyright and its advance publication may be interpreted as a breach of that.

But the Sun's assistant news editor Leaf Kalfayan said the paper came by the story by "good, old-fashioned techniques".

It had not broken any embargoes and had obtained the information by legal means.

The BBC said it viewed the leak with 'concern' and hoped it would not mar the sense of occasion engendered by the Queen's broadcast.

A spokesman said the tapes were distributed yesterday and by 1700 GMT up to 40 UK broadcasters had received copies.

This year's message has been eagerly awaited after the Queen witnessed the break-up of the marriages of her sons, Andrew and Charles, Princess Anne's divorce and a fire at Windsor Castle.

The Queen has also had to endure the publication of Andrew Morton's controversial book on the Princess of Wales and yield to demands she should pay income tax.

In Context
The source of the leak has never been found.

The Queen described her "sombre year" with the now infamous phrase "annus horribilis".

Many aspects of the broadcast were subsequently changed with the venue switching from Sandringham to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, and many media outlets not receiving the text of the address until late on Christmas Eve.

Buckingham Palace also ended the BBC's monopoly on the rights to produce the speech, to share it with Independent Television News (ITN) on a rotating basis.

It was widely interpreted as a deliberate snub to the BBC in retaliation for its Panorama interview with the Princess of Wales in November 1995.

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