When the Queen delivers her annual Christmas Day message, there is always much interest in what she has to say. However, the set-up and visual aspect of the broadcast—which has become increasingly sophisticated throughout the years—also attracts much attention. From what she wears, to what music is heard and what images and footage are shown, every aspect of the speech has the capacity to affect how it is received.
Last year, this was strongly illustrated when the photographs on the Queen’s desk sparked a debate about the future of the monarchy, specifically Harry and Meghan’s role within it. As she spoke from the Green Drawing Room of Windsor Castle, photographs beside the Queen included her father King George VI, husband Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla, and the Cambridge family. Harry and Meghan were pictured in the broadcast footage itself, but the symbolism of their exclusion from the desktop photographs (which largely focused on the line of succession) attracted much attention. Of course, the subsequent January announcement they were stepping back as working royals was about much more than this, but the Christmas broadcast had provided a window into the dynamic.
In 2019, the Queen described things as feeling, at times, “quite bumpy,” and the royal family’s personal challenges have continued into 2020. But they have been dwarfed on the global stage by an unprecedented year that has seen the pandemic turn life upside for everyone. In her role as a focus for national unity and stability, the Queen’s words have extra significance for many at a time like this. So what messages can be found in her Christmas broadcast this year?
Hope and Faith
The theme of hope instantly stands out, with the word “hope” featuring in the opening, conclusion, and a further three times throughout the speech. Also very prominent is faith, both the Queen’s own faith and that of others. “The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light,” she declared, and in another section of the message, she listed the many different religious festivals people across the UK have marked: “Passover, Easter, Eid, and Vaisakhi.”
Diversity and Inclusion
Following a year when Black Lives Matter protests have taken place in the UK and across the world, there is a clear emphasis on celebrating diversity in this broadcast. “Good Samaritans have emerged across society showing care and respect for all, regardless of gender, race or background, reminding us that each one of us is special and equal in the eyes of God,” the Queen said. When speaking of celebrating nurses, the Queen mentioned biracial nursing hero Mary Seacole, who established the British Hotel to help soldiers during the Crimean War, as well as the white nurse Florence Nightingale. A statue of Mary Seacole was erected in the grounds of St Thomas’s Hospital in London in 2016 following a 12 year campaign to honor her.
The Queen delivered her message from the Green Drawing Room of Windsor Castle, which was the same location as last year, but the staging was very different. In 2019, as in many previous years, ostentatious decor with gilded furniture and fittings could be seen in the background. In contrast, this year’s staging was noticeably less grand, with just a Christmas tree, window, and green curtain visible behind the Queen for most of the broadcast. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but the more modest set-up felt fitting for a year when many have faced financial challenges. Additionally, there was also just one small photograph on the desk beside her in a simple frame, another change from 2019. It shows Prince Philip, not dressed for a royal occasion but wearing an ordinary-looking blue jumper.
As technology has progressed, the production of the Christmas broadcasts has become more advanced, with footage interspersed between the Queen’s words. This year, there was an abundance of visuals showing local heroes and the part that people have played in their communities during this difficult time. “Remarkably, a year that has necessarily kept us apart has, in may ways, brought us closer,” the Queen said. An image of the Queen during the only time she has worn a mask in public, when visiting the grave of the unknown warrior, was also shown. It serves as a reminder of the fact that we are all being asked to play our part in following the guidelines.
One of the strongest themes of the speech was undoubtedly a recognition of how families will not be together for the festive season this year. The Queen spoke of “missing friends and family-members distanced for safety, when all they’d really want for Christmas is a simple hug or a squeeze of the hand.” She also chose to wear a piece of jewelry with a link to her mother. The Queen Mother’s Shell Brooch featuring diamonds and a single pearl was worn by the Queen Mother on her 100th birthday. Displaying only a picture of Prince Philip reflected the fact that the two of them are spending Christmas alone this year. It also had the effect of eliminating discussion around the family dynamic following the debate over last year’s pictures.
Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.
You Might Also Like