The King must strike the right tone with first Christmas speech - Jayne Dowle

Christmas just won’t be the same this year. For the first time in almost six decades, there will be no speech from the Queen. The late monarch made her first televised broadcast on Christmas Day 1957 and missed only one year until her death in September at the age of 96.

That year was 1969, when a ground-breaking documentary film, Royal Family, was released during the summer. At Christmas, Her Majesty issued a written message to the country and Commonwealth instead.

In those days, more than half a century ago, as far as the Royal Family was concerned, there was definitely such a thing as too much publicity.

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Public appearances, intriguing snippets of information and gossip were carefully controlled by courtiers and a largely deferential press - to the detriment of Royal popularity.

King Charles III will be delivering his very own first Christmas Day speech. PIC: Simon HulmeKing Charles III will be delivering his very own first Christmas Day speech. PIC: Simon Hulme
King Charles III will be delivering his very own first Christmas Day speech. PIC: Simon Hulme

When the Queen initially declined to attend the scene of the Aberfan Disaster in South Wales, in which 116 children and 28 adults died when a colliery spoil heap collapsed and engulfed a primary school, she faced unprecedented criticism for apparently failing to show sympathy.

It took her eight days to make the decision to go. It’s often been said that in private, she admitted her reticence - because she thought she would overwhelm the terrible tragedy with her presence - was one of the greatest regrets of her reign.

And now look. Since his grandmother’s passing just a few short months ago, we have Prince Harry, aka the Duke of Sussex, and his wife, Meghan Markle, baring their souls on Netflix and demanding a ‘summit’ and an apology from those in the Royal Family they deem to have done them wrong.

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We have Lady Susan Hussey, a senior member of the Royal Household and former lady-in-waiting to the late Queen, accused of racism.

And we have, in King Charles III, a new monarch who this week is expected to be drafting and recording his very own first Christmas Day speech.

The big question is of course, what on earth is he going to say?

Can you just imagine what must be going through his head? The 74-year-old has heard and seen his late mother express her thoughts, hopes and fears at this annual event since he was a little boy.

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How do you follow an act like that, especially when nine million of your subjects in the UK alone watched her last year speak so movingly of the loss of her husband, the late Duke of Edinburgh and speak so fondly of the arrival of four new great-grandchildren?

The King is an intelligent man, and a deep thinker. He is also an individual, indeed quirky, character. He knows only too well of the deep rifts between his sons, and must surely be aware that many people turning in at 3pm on Christmas Day will be thinking of the root causes of Harry’s dissatisfaction: if ever a boy missed his mother, it is him.

As they watch, whatever their own troubles, arguments and rivalries, viewers may well reflect that at least their own issues are not writ large on the world stage, shared with millions of Netflix subscribers anxious to know the dirt on ‘lived experience’, ‘truth’ and ‘peace’.

Some people will look at their own families gathered round as the King speaks and feel ever so slightly smug. Unless they live in a family like mine, with a 17-year-old daughter who will be at work waitressing in a pub, and a 20-year-old son on spud-bashing duty in the kitchen as he helps me prepare a late lunch with (most) of the trimmings.

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My mum and dad will watch it with me though, and the dog will probably bark at the screen. I’m wondering if the Queen’s favourite corgis will make a comeback appearance to lighten the mood.

Seriously, the King must also be aware that it is absolutely crucial that he strikes the right note. British people are suffering the worst cost of living crisis in generations and he is privileged enough to be speaking from a nice warm room in a Royal palace.

At home, there are rumblings of dissent and division, not just between rich and poor, but the members of ‘the United Kingdom’ seeking to break away.

And overseas, where Royal tours of late have generally not gone as well as intended, almost immediately after the Queen’s death,

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Difficult times indeed to make your first ‘King’s Speech’. I’ll make my kids watch it later, don’t worry, because this inaugural annual address from a monarch who can never hope to be as universally venerated as his mother, and who faces many internal and external challenges ahead, is a moment in history.

I hope that we will remember it for all the right reasons.