Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Queen’s Speech

December 25, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

For some it’s as much a part of Christmas as a turkey dinner; for others it is about as welcome as the pile of Brussels sprouts guaranteed to adorn the very same plate. But whatever your inclination towards our monarch, there is no denying that the annual tradition of addressing the nation at Christmas has become an institution. Here are ten facts about the Queen’s speech that not many people know..

1. The first ever Christmas broadcast was made by in 1932 by The Queen’s grandfather – King George V – and it was written by author Rudyard Kipling (that bloke who also penned The Jungle Book.) The original idea came about as a way of inaugurating the Empire Service, which is now known as BBC World Service.

2. The tradition of the speech was cemented in 1939, when it was used by King George VI to boost the morale of the country following the outbreak of the Second World War. In it he spoke of the courage and determination the British Empire must bring forth, and quoted the rousing Minnie Louise Haskins poem, beginning: ‘And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.?

3. The official title of the speech is actually ‘Her Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech’ or the ‘Gracious Address’. However, us paupers rather commonly refer to it as ‘the Queen’s speech’… perhaps the ‘Royal Christmas message’ if you’re trying to be posh.

4. Since her first speech in 1952, the Queen has broadcast one every year – apart from 1969. While we’re certain that the rudeness of the year was a major factor in the decision not to bother, the official line was that with the release of the documentary film ‘Royal Family’, the royals had spent too much time in the spotlight. As such the Queen decided it was best not to go forward with the usual Christmas message, but instead to release a written one. ‘I want you all to know that my good wishes are no less warm and personal because they come to you in a different form’, she ever so kindly said.

5. The highest ever ratings for the speech were seen in 1980, with a record 28 million viewers tuning in on Christmas Day. It was a good year for the Queen… drawing almost as many as Eastenders in its heyday. Cor’ blimey guv’nor and all that.

6. Her infamous ‘annus horribilis’ speech in 1992 – whereby she spoke about the difficulties faced by the Royal family (two break-ups and a fire at Windsor Castle, bad times…) – was actually published by The Sun two days before it was due to air. As a result, the Queen issued a writ against them eventually leading to the paper giving a donation to charity by way of apology. Go on ma’am!

7. The ‘alternative Christmas speech’ which airs every year on Channel 4, began almost by accident in 1993. Originally part of a series called ‘Christmas in New York’, Quentin Crisp was first invited to deliver a comedy-style message playing on the word ‘queen’. This idea eventually caught on, with contemporary celebrities such as Ali G going on to deliver the alternative each year since. Even Americans like to get in on the act… Marge Simpson did it in 2004!

8. The decision by Buckingham Palace to share the rights to produce the speech between BBC, ITN and now Sky News was rumoured to be retaliation for the beeb’s 1995 interview with Diana Princess of Wales. (#awkward)

9. It’s all her own work! Commonly assumed to be doing a Katie Price with the speech being written for her, the Queen does in fact pen the message herself. Always with the aim of reflecting current and contemporary issues affecting Britain today, it tends to have a religious or spiritual framework and is a chance for the monarch to put her personal view on such matters across.

10. 1955 was the year the speech was broadcast on two channels simultaneously, with ITV also adding the Queen to their schedules. In more recent times – and despite declining ratings on traditional telly – the progression of the internet has seen YouTube also streaming the live broadcast under its ‘Royal Channel’. Even popping up on Facebook, she’s sure down with the kids is Her Maj!