For the past nine decades, the British monarch has broadcast a Royal Christmas Message, a fusty but revealing time capsule written in a clipped Royal Family haiku, the fewest possible lines of script about the state of the world — as seen through the eyes of the head of the House of Windsor.
Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas Broadcast on Monday continued in its earnest tradition, paying homage to the “extraordinary bravery and resilience” of the citizens of London and Manchester, who experienced “appalling attacks” with knives, vehicles and a bomb, by mostly homegrown Islamist terrorists.
The queen also notably said she looked forward to welcoming “new members” to the family in 2018, and though Elizabeth did not mention Prince Harry’s fiancee by name, the broadcast featured an engagement photograph of the American actress Meghan Markle, who is due to marry the ginger prince in May 2018.
A few hours before the Royal Message, the British media noted that Markle was allowed to break with tradition by attending Christmas Mass with the 91-year-old queen.
Markle was photographed walking arm-in-arm with Harry as they made their way from Sandringham House to the church in Norfolk.
This was big enough news to merit coverage on the BBC.
Millions in Britain and the 52 Commonwealth nations still watch and listen when the short, prerecorded message airs at 3 p.m. Greenwich time on the dot.
It is like an episode of the popular TV series “The Crown” or a clip from the Oscar-winning film “The Queen” with Helen Mirren but real.
The broadcasts serve as a kind of annual summing-up of the year, with news good and bad about the doings of royal family — births of children and future heirs, anniversaries, jubilees and deaths.
Yet they always touch on the events of the greater world.
And so the broadcasts have dealt with the Great Depression, the rise of Nazism and the Second World War, the threat of nuclear annihilation in the 1950s, the space race, the role of women, the wonders and challenges of new technologies, recessions, the 9/11 attacks, Afghanistan and Iraq, and a lot of volcanoes, hurricanes, famines and earthquakes.
The first radio broadcast in 1932 by King George V was scripted by the writer Rudyard Kipling and began with the words: “I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all.”
They were and still are intended to unite Britain and Commonwealth and to sell the brand.
On Monday, the queen sat in white dress, with a string of pearls, beside a desk and addressed her subjects.
She began with a bit of British self-deprecating humor, noting that 2017 marked an anniversary of sorts.
“Sixty years ago today, a young woman spoke about the speed of technological change as she presented the first television broadcast of its kind. She described the moment as a landmark,” Elizabeth began.
The videotaped address then pivoted to a clip of a young queen giving her first televised Christmas address in 1957.
“Six decades on, the presenter has evolved somewhat, as has the technology she described,” she said.
The palace insists the queen writes her own Christmas address, with consultation from advisers.
She continued, “Back then, who could have imagined that people would one day be watching this on laptops and mobile phones, as some of you are today?”
The queen praised the ambulance and security forces, as she remarked not only on the 2017 terrorist attacks but a fire at the Grenfell public housing estate in London that left 71 dead.
The Guardian newspaper wrote, “the Queen chose the theme of ‘home’ for a highly personal Christmas broadcast,” noting her focus on the attacks and the Grenfell fire. (The queen showed up and expressed her condolences to victims of both.)
“Reflecting on these events makes me grateful for the blessings of home and family and, in particular, for 70 years of marriage,” the queen said. “I don’t know that anyone had invented the term ‘platinum’ for a 70th wedding anniversary. When I was born, you weren’t expected to be around that long.”
She continued, speaking of her 96-year-old husband: “Even Prince Philip has decided it’s time to slow down a little, having, as he economically put it, done his bit. But I know his support and unique sense of humor will remain as strong as ever as we enjoy spending time this Christmas with our family, and look forward to welcoming new members into it next year.”
The queen ended on a religious note. “We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution,” she said. “And, yet, it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad.”
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