At 3pm UK time on Christmas day, the Queen’s Christmas message is broadcast throughout the Commonwealth. Every year the format is basically the identical, with the Queen giving her personal account of the primary private, nationwide and worldwide occasions of the yr and reflecting on the which means of Christmas. As such, it has develop into an vital a part of the festivities for a lot of households within the UK and past.
With the COVID-19 pandemic nonetheless raging, contemporary restrictions imposed and Brexit quickly approaching, this yr’s broadcast has taken on new significance as a supply of stability and luxury, a continuing in these tough and unsure occasions. Subsequently, it’s value analyzing how the language used within the broadcast creates this sense of reassurance.
Since 1952, the Queen’s Christmas message has carried out three ideological features by way of rhetorical appeals primarily based on religion and household.
The Queen shares private anecdotes, which she typically hyperlinks to strange folks’s experiences by way of the pronouns “we” and “us”.
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On Christmas Day 1964, as an illustration, she instructed viewers that: “All of us who’ve been blessed with younger households know from lengthy expertise that when one’s home is at its noisiest, there may be typically much less trigger for nervousness”. As most new mother and father would recognise this truism, it conveys the message that – on this respect no less than – the royals are like some other household.
The Royal Household/YouTube
The Queen can be conscious that some households might be separated through the festive season and recurrently expresses empathy for them. As she mentioned in 1956: “I wish to ship a particular message of hope and encouragement to all who […] can’t be with these they love in the present day: to the sick who can’t be at residence”.
This message is made extra poignant due to COVID-19, because the Queen recognised in her particular handle on April 5 2020. Certainly, it’s virtually inevitable that this yr’s Christmas broadcast will embrace comparable phrases of comfort for individuals who have been separated from their family members through the pandemic.
Uncertainty is one other recurring theme within the Queen’s Christmas broadcast, as she tries to make sense of the yr’s occasions for the good thing about her viewers. She provides her private responses to nationwide and international issues, which continuously contain the enactment of supposedly timeless (however predominantly Christian) values. On Christmas Day 1980, amid points such because the Soviet-Afghanistan conflict and UK unemployment, she mentioned:
We all know that the world can by no means be free from battle and ache, however Christmas additionally attracts our consideration to all that’s hopeful and good on this altering world; it speaks of values and qualities which can be true and everlasting and it reminds us that the world we wish to see can solely come from the goodness of the guts.
Amongst these values are religion, charity and compassion and, by praising them as a supply of stability and the means for creating a greater world, the Queen is probably looking for to strengthen adherence to them. Not solely that, her appeals to Christian values and her emphasis on the household present a way of safety for individuals who are disoriented by the speedy tempo of social change. In flip, this sustains the monarchy by establishing the Queen as “a everlasting anchor, bracing in opposition to the storms and grounding us in certainty”, as former British prime minister David Cameron mentioned in 2012, marking her Diamond Jubilee.
The Queen’s rhetoric of unity relies totally on the metaphor of the Commonwealth as a household, which recurs all through the Christmas broadcasts. In 1956, as an illustration, she noticed that:
We speak of ourselves as a “household of countries”, and maybe our relationships with each other usually are not so very completely different from these which exist between members of any household. Everyone knows that these usually are not at all times straightforward, for there isn’t a regulation inside a household which binds its members to suppose, or act, or be alike.
Regardless of these variations, in 2011 the Queen described the Commonwealth as “a household of 53 nations, all with a typical bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and objectives”. As the pinnacle of the Commonwealth, it’s maybe no exaggeration to say that the Queen is the matriarch of this household of countries, whose main position is to maintain the unit collectively and uphold its values. Certainly, the Christmas broadcast has been an vital supply of sentimental energy for the reason that finish of Empire. As Sonny Ramphal, a former Commonwealth secretary common, put it: “with out her presence, the Commonwealth will really feel it’s lacking the captain from the bridge”.
With the UK authorities having tightened Christmas COVID-19 restrictions, in addition to the introduction of bans on UK journey in quite a few nations, this festive season might be very completely different. Maybe greater than ever, as households face separation or the disruption of their conventional plans, folks will search solace within the ritual of the Queen’s Christmas broadcast.
This text relies on the undertaking 'Envisioning Britain and Britishness: The Queen's Christmas Message', which is supported by a Leverhulme Belief Analysis Fellowship (award quantity: RF-2019-5317).