King Charles III pays homage to Queen Elizabeth II in his Christmas speech


Britain’s King Charles III delivered a message of empathy and unity in his first Christmas address as monarch, paying homage to the past – and continuing a tradition linked to pivotal moments in the reign of his late mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

As Britain confronts rising living costs and widespread strikes by nurses and others in the public sector, Charles’ remarks focused on those working to “bring a light into the world around them”.

Seen by millions across Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations, the Christmas message has been a staple of Christmas Day for almost a century and offers a glimpse into the royal family’s views on the state of the world. For Charles, it marks the end of a tumultuous year during which his mother celebrated her platinum anniversary and died at the age of 96, and saw him ascend to the throne.

“Christmas is a particularly poignant time for all of us who have lost loved ones,” said Charles. “We sense their absence in every familiar season and remember them in every cherished tradition.”

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The British King Charles III. and members of the Royal Family attended a Christmas service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on December 25. (Video: Reuters)

Everything about the recorded five-minute speech makes sense, and royal watchers are keeping a close eye on what the monarch says – or leaves unsaid.

The setting for Charles’ first attempt at the Christmas message was to show continuity from Queen to Heir, staged in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where his mother was buried just months alongside his father, Prince Philip.

In the seven decades that Queen Elizabeth II delivered the shows, they often took on a religious tone.

Charles accepted the responsibilities conferred on him by his religious titles – the monarch is the head of the Church of England – unreservedly, and he attended a Christmas service in Sandringham on Sunday. But there are signs that Charles intends to bring a slightly different vision of religion and spirituality to the role. In his message he said: “While Christmas is of course a Christian festival, the power of light to overcome darkness is celebrated across the boundaries of faith and belief.”

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The first royal Christmas message was broadcast over the radio in 1932 by King George V. Elizabeth brought the tradition to television – bringing one every year of her reign except for 1969, when she apparently decided the public had had enough of the royals after the BBC broadcast of a two-hour documentary, which she found indulgent and intrusive.

The Christmas programs have long served as a sort of annual takedown of the goings-on of the royal family, including births, heirs, anniversaries, anniversaries and deaths. Charles 2022’s message – with its tribute to his mother – was in keeping with tradition.

But while Charles mentioned the public engagements of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, he made no mention of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

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The renegade couple – who resigned as “senior working royals” in 2020 and moved to California – had caused a stir in recent weeks with a Netflix documentary series that alleged palace staffers were leaking negative stories about Meghan to the news media. Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace said they would not comment and the King’s Christmas message on Sunday indicated they have no intention of changing course.

In her Christmas message last year, the Queen skipped over the controversies that hit the family at the time, including allegations that Prince Andrew committed sexual abuse, which he denies.

Known for their brevity, the Christmas messages also typically address important societal issues, covering subjects such as the Great Depression, the rise of Nazism, the threat of nuclear annihilation in the 1950s, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is one of the few public statements that British monarchs usually write without government advice.

In his address on Sunday, Charles referred to the conflict, famine and natural disasters that have plagued this year, but he made no direct reference to climate protection – an issue that preoccupied him before he took the throne. As a sovereign, he faces more expectations than before not to share his personal views.

But the setting of Windsor Castle offered a message – to be deciphered – of sustainability and of Charles’ love of nature, gardening, plants and the cycle of life.

In a note to reporters, the palace said the Christmas tree was “decorated with ornaments made from sustainable materials like paper and glass, as well as natural products like pine cones.”

The floral arrangements used “English foliage – holly, berry ivy and red skimmia” and the tree was to be recycled so that it could be viewed by holidaymakers in Windsor.

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