Revealed: How the Queen’s Christmas message has changed over the last 66 years from a formal radio broadcast to a vibrant TV production celebrating her growing family

  • The Queen, 92, first delivered her Christmas Day speech in December 1952
  • The monarch has since made a broadcast every year – except for 1969 
  • FEMAIL reveals how it developed from a radio broadcast to a TV production
  • Also track how the location, content and the Queen’s personal style has changed

At 3pm tomorrow, millions of Britons will sit down to watch the Queen’s annual Christmas speech.

The festive tradition, established by her grandfather, King Geoerge V in 1932, will once again see the monarch, 95, reflect on the year that has past and send a personal message to her subjects. 

In the more than six decades since her inaugural appearance, the Queen’s speech has transformed from a radio broadcast to a vibrant televised production, with dozens of outfit and venue changes in between. 

Here, ahead of her address tomorrow, FEMAIL looks back at 10 of the most memorable speeches… 

1952 

1952: Months after the death of her father, King George VI, a 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth took on the daunting task of delivering the Christmas speech from Sandringham, pictured

Months after the death of her father, King George VI, a 26-year-old Queen Elizabeth took on the daunting task of delivering the Christmas speech. 

Dressed in a classic suit, the Queen took her seat behind a desk at Sandringham, Norfolk, where equipment had been set up to record her message for radio. 


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In her message, she paid tribute to her late father, and asked people to remember her at the time of her Coronation the following June.  

She also thanked the public for their support in the 10 months since her ascension to the throne.  

1967

1967: Ten years after the first televised broadcast in 1957, the Queen’s Christmas speech was seen in colour for the first time, pictured, and she plumped for a yellow dress for the occasion

Some 15 years later the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast was shown in colour for the first time. It was first televised in 1957.

She said: ‘Modern communications make it possible for me to talk to you in your homes and to wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. These techniques of radio and television are modern, but the Christmas message is timeless.’ 

As if to showcase the brilliance of the new technology, the monarch, then 41, plumped for a satin dress in a vibrant canary yellow colour. 

The speech was recorded in Buckingham Palace, although the framed photos that now draw so much interest were not yet included in the set-up. 

In her speech, the Queen paid tribute to Canada on the centenary of its Confederation.  

1971

1971: The Queen with sons Prince Andrew, then 11, and Prince Edward, then seven, looking at a family photograph album, as she delivered a Christmas message focused on families

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast in 1971 focused on the theme of families. 

The television version showed Prince Andrew, then 11, and Prince Edward, then seven, looking at a family photograph album. The young royals were smartly dressed in chinos, white shirts and ties. 

Showcasing her lifelong love of bright colours, the Queen donned a blue dress for the broadcast and finished the look with a bow.   

1975

1975: The Queen wrapped up as she headed into the gardens of Buckingham Palace for her first outdoor broadcast in 1975  

Breaking from the norm, the speech was broadcast from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, marking the first time it was recorded outdoors. 

The Queen wrapped up in a heavy coat to stay warm on the chilly and grey winter’s day.  

It was a year of record inflation and unemployment in the UK and worldwide, to which The Queen referred. 

She said: ‘We are horrified by brutal and senseless violence, and above all the whole fabric of our lives is threatened by inflation, the frightening sickness of the world today.

‘Then Christmas comes, and once again we are reminded that people matter, and it is our relationship with one another that is most important.’ 

1985 

1985: The Queen opted for yet another blue number in 1985, which was delivered from a desk decorated with a framed photograph, radio and vase of flowers that added a personal touch

Ten years later and the Queen had returned indoors for the broadcast – this time to her desk at Buckingham Palace. 

A framed photograph, radio, and a vase of fresh flowers added a personal touch to the set-up. 

In a year of a devastating earthquake that killed 10,000 in Mexico; a volcano eruption that killed 23,000 in Colombia; a famine in Africa and a plane crash off the coast of Ireland, the Queen decided to focus on the positive news stories from the year.   

1991

1991: Under the tenure of Sir David Attenborough’s role as producer, the Queen donned particularly bright and eye-catching ensembles, including the one pictured above

From 1986 to 1991, the Christmas Day Broadcast was produced by Sir David Attenborough. 

During this time the Queen swapped her block colour outfits for more patterned and visually interesting looks. 

A miniature silver corgi can be spotted on the desk in front of her – a sweet nod to her lifelong love of animals. 

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast in 1991 reflected on the enormous changes taking place across Eastern Europe and Russia, and the importance of democratic traditions. 

1998

1998: The broadcast features framed black and white photographs of Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie in the background of the shot, pictured

The broadcast features framed black and white photographs of Prince William, Prince Harry, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie in the background of the shot. 

She drew on her experience as the matriarch of a growing family to explore the theme of generations working together. 

‘It is not always easy for those in their teens or twenties to believe that someone of my age – of the older generation – might have something useful to say to them,’ she said. ‘But I would say that my mother has much to say to me.’

The broadcast also included film of the Queen and the Queen Mother visiting the Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey. 

Once again the Queen was in blue, this time bringing a touch of sparkle with the Williamson Diamond Brooch.  

2006

2006: In a break from the royal residences, the Queen filmed her message from Southwark Cathedral, where she met children working on a nativity collage

Filmed at Southwark Cathedral, 2006 marked only the second time the speech was filmed outside of a royal residence.

The Queen donned a vibrant green skirt suit as she met children working on a nativity collage at the cathedral.

In her speech, the monarch thanked the public for the ‘very generous response’ to her 80th birthday.

2013

2013: With the birth of Prince George and the 60th anniversary of her own Coronation, the Queen had plenty to celebrate in 2013 – and chose a yellow dress to reflect it

With the birth of Prince George and the 60th anniversary of her own Coronation, the Queen had plenty to celebrate in 2013 – and chose a yellow dress to reflect it. 

Pride of place behind Her Majesty was a framed photograph of herself with Charles, William and George – three generations of heirs to the British throne. 

She acknowledged his arrival, saying: ‘As so many of you will know, the arrival of a baby gives everyone the chance to contemplate the future with renewed happiness and hope. For the new parents, life will never be quite the same again!

‘As with all who are christened, George was baptised into a joyful faith of Christian duty and service. After the christening, we gathered for the traditional photograph.

‘It was a happy occasion, bringing together four generations.’

2017

2017: Last year the Queen used her speech to welcome another new member to the family: Prince Harry’s then new fiancee, Meghan. The actress’ photo was seen left, out of this frame

Last year the Queen used her speech to welcome another new member to the family: Prince Harry’s then new fiancee, Meghan. 

A framed photo of the couple from their engagement shoot was on display alongside other family pictures.

The annual address was produced by Sky News and was recorded in the palace’s 1844 room which is decorated with a large tree and features family photos.

It marked the 60th anniversary of her first Christmas Day broadcast. 

2018 

2018: This year the Queen’s message paid tribute to her son Prince Charles’ 70th birthday with a black and white photograph of her with her son as a baby seen on her desk, pictured

The Queen’s annual Christmas message was filmed in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace on December 12 and has been produced this year by Sky News.

In it she is wearing a cocktail dress deigned by her senior dresser, Angela Kelly, in ivory silk with pastel blue, white and gold lamé lace overlay.

Sweetly, her brooch was a gift from The Duke of Edinburgh, in 1966. It is known as the Scarab brooch, designed by Andrew Grima, and is crafted of yellow gold, with carved ruby with diamond embellishments.

On the table in the White Drawing Room can be seen a black and white photograph by Baron of the then Princess Elizabeth, The Duke of Edinburgh and a young Prince Charles, 1948.

The Queen never leaves anything to chance and this is clearly a reference to her son and heir on the occasion of his 70th birthday last month.

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