Millions will tune in to listen to Her Majesty’s words at 9pm this evening, the same time her father King George VI gave a radio address in 1945. Then a 19-year-old princess, she will remember her father’s words all too well as the world breathed a collective sigh of relief as almost six years of intense fighting with Nazi Germany came to an end. Today, the Queen is accustomed to making speeches as the country’s longest-serving monarch.
But in 1956, just four years after her father’s death, she had to face the upset of fronting a national broadcast while her husband, Prince Philip, made a separate radio broadcast away from home.
On Christmas Day that year, the Duke of Edinburgh was away on a voyage around the Commonwealth.
He spoke on the radio from the Royal Yacht Britannia while Her Majesty made her broadcast live from her study in Sandringham.
She addressed her personal worries directly in the address, admitting how sad it was for the couple, Prince Charles and Princess Anne to be separated.
The Queen said: “From all parts of the Commonwealth, and from the remote and lonely spaces of Antarctica, words and thoughts, taking their inspiration from the birth of the child in Bethlehem long ago, have been carried between us upon the invisible wings of twentieth-century science.
“Neither the long and troubled centuries that have passed since that child was born, nor the complex scientific developments of our age, have done anything to dim the simple joy and bright hope we all feel when we celebrate his birthday.
“That joy and hope find their most complete fulfilment within the loving circle of a united family.
“You will understand me, therefore, when I tell you that of all the voices we have heard this afternoon none has given my children and myself greater joy than that of my husband.
“To him I say: ‘From all the members of the family gathered here today our very best good wishes go out to you and to every one on board Britannia, as you voyage together in the far Southern seas. Happy Christmas from us all.’
“Of course it is sad for us to be separated on this day, and of course we look forward to the moment when we shall all again be together.
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“Yet my husband’s absence at this time has made me even more aware than I was before of my own good fortune in being one of a united family.”
The speech came as Philip was away on a five-month solo tour – where, among other destinations, he visited Antarctica.
It was a trying time for the couple’s relationship, particularly as their only communication during Philip’s period away was by telegram, letter and very occasional telephone conversations.
Although it was unusual for the couple to make separate speeches in 1956, Philip is said to have taken an active role in Her Majesty’s addresses over the years.
Most recently, he is said to have encouraged the Queen to reference Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ in her lockdown address earlier this year.
After the Queen’s Speech this evening, there will be a singalong of the World War 2 classic.