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1952: Queen makes first Christmas speech

AUDIO : Excerpts from a 1952 BBC festive programme

Millions of British and Commonwealth listeners have been listening to Queen Elizabeth's first Christmas broadcast of her reign.

In a tradition that began in 1932, the Queen made her address on BBC radio from the study at Sandringham House at 1507 GMT.

She used the same desk and chair as her father King George VI and his father King George V had done.

The annual broadcast allowed nations around the world to hear the voice of their monarch, made more human by the power of radio.

The Queen began: "Each Christmas, at this time, my beloved father broadcast a message to his people in all parts of the world. Today I am doing this to you, who are now my people.

Message to armed forces

"As he used to do, I am speaking to you from my own home, where I am spending Christmas with my family."

She also made mention of those serving abroad, referring no doubt to armed forces in Korea, Malaya and Kenya.

"I have a special thought for those who are serving their country in distant lands far from their families. Wherever you are either at home or away, in snow or in sunshine, I give you my affectionate greetings, with every good wish for Christmas and the New Year."

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.

The Prime Minister of New Zealand announced today that the Queen will make next year's Christmas broadcast from Government House in Auckland.

In Context
The message was recorded and retransmitted over the following days all over the world for the benefit of those unable to get a good reception on the day.

In 1957 the speech was televised for the first time.

From 1960 the radio and TV broadcasts were pre-recorded instead of being transmitted live.

In 1992, a year described as her "annus horribilis", the contents of the Queen's Christmas speech were leaked to the Sun newspaper ahead of transmission, which led to an internal investigation at the BBC.

In the late 1990s the BBC lost its monopoly on the speech and it is broadcast every other year by Independent Television News.

In spite of her 1952 vow to strengthen the Empire, Queen Elizabeth oversaw its gradual disintegration as one nation after another across the globe gained independence.


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