The tech behind the Queen's Christmas speech

The Queen's Speech through the ages
How Royalty keeps up with the times

The Queen has been making Christmas Day broadcasts since the death of her father, King George VI, in February 1952

As well as following a religious framework, her address always reflects the events of the past year and her own experiences. And, as well as being part of the British and Commonwealth heritage, how the message is delivered shows the evolution of broadcast technology.


Following her Accession earlier in the year, the Queen broadcasts her first Christmas Message live on the radio from her study at Sandringham, Norfolk, using the same desk and chair as her father, King George VI, and his father, King George V, had done before her.

This first Christmas address paid tribute to the late king and spoke of carrying on the tradition passed to her. "Each Christmas, at this time, my beloved Father broadcast a message to his people in all parts of the world ... As he used to do, I am speaking to you from my own home, where I am spending Christmas with my family ... My Father [King George VI], and my Grandfather [King George V] before him, worked hard all their lives to unite our peoples ever more closely, and to maintain its ideals which were so near to their hearts. I shall strive to carry on their work."

This wasn't the first time the queen had been on the radio though, as you can hear here:


The advent of television during the Queen's reign gives a new dimension to her Christmas Messages in 1957, which was the first year to have a televised Christmas broadcast.

The Queen in 1957

The Christmas Broadcast, 1957

The broadcast was made live from the Long Library at Sandringham, Norfolk and was the first time viewers were able to see the Queen in her own surroundings, decorated for Christmas. The Queen talks about the new technology in her speech: "That it is possible for some of you to see me today is just another example of the speed at which things are changing all around us ... television has made it possible for many of you to see me in your homes."


This year the Queen reverted from television back to radio to deliver her Christmas Message as she was pregnant with her fourth child, Prince Edward.


Tradition was broken in 1969 as there was no Christmas Message – this is the only year during her reign that Her Royal Highness has not addressed the nation. The lack of broadcast was down to the fact that a repeat of the documentary, Royal Family, was already scheduled. This break with tradition resulted in a tremendous amount of public concern, so much so that the Queen issued a message reassuring the public that the broadcast would return in 1970.


This year's Christmas Message was broadcast with the addition of the BBC's Ceefax, the world's first teletext information service to provide subtitles for the hard of hearing.


This year saw the Queen's Christmas Speech broadcast online for the first time – an important move considering the growing popularity of the internet. This was also the year that the Queen launched during a visit to Kingsbury High School in Brent.

Royal website

The Royal website launched in 1997


Following the 2001 TV broadcast of the Christmas speech, it was released as a free download for Amazon's Kindle e-book reader. This was big news, as it allowed people to digest The Queen's speech in a completely new way.

A spokeswoman at Buckingham Palace told the BBC: "We would like The Queen's Speech to be broadcast or read as widely as possible, and allowing Kindle to make the text available is just another example of this."

The arrangement was an e-book exclusive and caused a stir in the book industry, with some describing it as a coup for Amazon, although the text was also available on the Royal Household's official website, the BBC and Facebook.


Moving with the times, in 2006 the Queen made her Christmas Day message available as a podcast for the first time. The message could be ordered in advance, for free, via the British Monarchy website and users then received the podcast on Christmas Day at 3pm – the same time it was shown on television in the UK.


2007 saw another technological advance with the launch of a dedicated Royal YouTube channel. The Christmas message went out on YouTube on Christmas Day at 3pm, when it was simultaneously shown on television.

The Royal YouTube channel

The Royal Channel has 124,463 subscribers


This was the first year the message was broadcast in High Definition.


Last year's Christmas Message was broadcast to the UK and Commonwealth in 3D for the first time. Viewers needed a 3D television 'side-by-side' mode and 3D glasses and had to watch on Sky or the now defunct BBC HD.

Royal 3D

Last year The Queen delivered her Christmas Speech in 3D

This use of new 3D technology came 80 years after George V first broadcast a Christmas speech on the radio and started the December 25th tradition and was the 60th message that the Queen has delivered to the nation and the Commonwealth, in commemoration of her Diamond Jubilee.

How long will it be before we're watching the Queen in 4K?