Friday, December 23, 2005

The Royal Christmas Broadcast

Through one of the marvels of modern science, I am enabled, this Christmas Day, to speak to all my peoples throughout the Empire. I take it as a good omen that Wireless should have reached its present perfection at a time when the Empire has been linked in closer union. For it offers us immense possibilities to make that union closer still.

On Christmas day 1932, King George V made the first royal Christmas broadcast. His speech was short, no more than 251 words, and lasted two-and-a-half minutes, but it started a tradition that has continued to this day. The text of this Christmas speech was written by poet and writer Rudyard Kipling and it was broadcast live by radio from his study at Sandringham. The time chosen was 3 pm - the best time for reaching most of the countries in the Empire by short waves from the transmitters in Britain.

Although he had reigned since 1910, it wasn't until the summer of 1932 that he was convinced to do a Christmas broadcast using the 'untried medium of radio'. King George V continued to broadcast until the end of his reign. His voice noticeably weaker, his last speech came in 1935, a month before his death.

There was no Christmas broadcast in 1936 as King Edward VIII abdicated just before Christmas. His successor, King George VI delivered his first Christmas message in 1937,  thanking the nation for their support during the first year of his reign. George VI had stammered most of his life and he would always find making the broadcast to be an ordeal. There would be no broadcast in 1938, as it had yet to become a regular tradition. However the Second World War would change that.

In 1939, three months after war had been declared, he made a speech that was to have a profound effect. Wearing his uniform of Admiral of the Fleet, he reassured his people in the uncertain times ahead. During the Second World War these broadcasts played a large part in boosting morale and reinforcing belief in the common cause. All of his broadcasts were live except for his last one, in 1951. Suffering from lung cancer, the message was pre-recorded as he was only able to manage the recording in intervals. Despite this, his optimistic words were to touch his listeners, who were unaware of the seriousness of his illness.

He died in February 1952, and his heir, the present Queen, made her first broadcast on Christmas day of that year. Using the same desk and chair as her father and grandfather, she broadcast her radio message live from Sandringham. This message would be recorded and re-broadcast all over the world for the benefit of those who could not get a good reception that day. In 1953, while on her Commonwealth tour, she made her speech from Auckland, New Zealand; the first and only time that it would be done outside of the United Kingdom.

In 1957, on the 25th anniversary of her grandfather's first broadcast, the Queen's Christmas message was televised for the first time. From 1960 onwards, the broadcasts were recorded in advance so that tapes of the speech would be sent across the Commonwealth for transmissions at convenient times.

The Queen has given a broadcast every year of her reign except one. In 1969, when the documentary film 'Royal Family' was shown, it was decided not to broadcast a Christmas message. Instead she released a written message. Listeners missed the broadcast and wrote to the BBC to complain. A message had been broadcast without break ever since.

The broadcast has kept up with modern technology. In 1932, King George V had the 'wireless', in 1957, the Queen broadcast live on television, and in 1998 the broadcast appeared on the Internet for the first time. Today, the message is recorded a few days before Christmas and lasts up to 10 minutes.

Since 1932, the Christmas broadcast has become a chronicle of global, national and personal events, reflecting current issues and concerns. Lending a personal touch, the Queen talks about her hopes for the year ahead and what Christmas means to her and many of her listeners.

This year will be the Queen's 52nd Christmas broadcast. We can look forward to this tradition continuing for many years to come.

For a complete archive of the Queen's Christmas broadcasts click here.
© Marilyn Braun 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Queen's To-Do list for Christmas

√ Record Christmas speech

√ Send Christmas cards

√ Wrap 550 employee gifts

√ Buy more wrapping paper, tape and stamps

√ Re-gift fruitcake

√ Put dustcovers over the furniture at BP

√ Pack for Sandringham

√ Put lights up at Sandringham

√ Buy kris kringle gift for Princess Michael

√ Choose menu for dinner

√ Make sure there are enough Christmas crackers this year

√ Rent It's a Wonderful Life

√ Roast chestnuts over an open fire

√ Hang stockings with care

√ Buy Mistletoe

√ Decorate Christmas tree

√ I'm NOT Martha Stewart! Buy mince pies, trifle, and Christmas pudding this year

√ Make sure camera has plenty of film


© Marilyn Braun 2005

Friday, December 16, 2005

Dear Lilibet...

It's coming up to the end of the year and I just thought I would check in and see how things are with you.

You've had an eventful year, what with Charles getting married again, Andy costing the taxpayers too much money, Harry and the sicknote incident, and now William with the whole boots thing. Not to mention Princess Michael and her jam. No matter how you raise them they still surprise you don't they? At least you didn't have to worry about Anne and Edward this year. By the way, Beatrice looked just stunning on the cover of Tatler. Let's hope she doesn't take after her mother.

I don't blame you one bit for not going to the wedding. If I were in your shoes I wouldn't have gone either. It was a splendid service afterwards, even if I did have to watch it on tv like everyone else. No hard feelings though.

I went to Calgary earlier this year, actually just two weeks after you had left. You're not avoiding me are you? ;o) It would have been lovely to see you and Philip. Next time you're in Toronto, you must stop by. Our flight was fine and almost uneventful. We were worried about the baby but she was a trouper. Coming back was another story! Can you believe she's just turned one! Time just flies doesn't it? Did you get the photos I've sent you?

We arrived in Edmonton and made our way around to Jasper and Banff. You recommended the Banff Springs hotel, so we thought we would stay there. Unfortunately we couldn't get a discount, even after mentioning your name as you had suggested. Oh how embarrassing! I told security that you would hear about this.

Anyways, we drove on and went to the Icefields, Athabasca Falls, the Hot Springs, as well as the Royal Turrell Dinosour museum in Drumheller. It seems that you and Phil have opened a lot of places; just plaques everywhere! You must have so many memories and gift shop souvenirs.

We stopped off at Lake Louise; what a beautiful tribute to a family member. But did the province have to be named after her too? I would have been happy with a school, a parkway or even a hospital. I would have even settled for a street sign. Obviously a lake wasn't good enough for her.

Well dear, I'm looking forward to your Christmas message this year. They just keep getting better and better.

All my love to you and your family.


© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Camilla and the Specter of Diana

Like Laurel and Harvey, Abbott and Costello, Siskel and Ebert, Camilla and Diana's names seem to be intertwined. Whether it's about fashion or exclusion from state prayers, when discussing Camilla, Diana's name invariably comes up. And it's not likely to end anytime soon. Their names will go down in history as a cautionary tale of what not to do when you marry into the royal family. Future generations take note. But other than being blonde, well-to-do, divorced, born under the sign of Cancer, mother's of two children, and married to the same man, what do they really have in common?

More than you would think. According to the recent issue of Majesty magazine, they are related through an illegitimate line from King Charles II and his brother, James, Duke of York. It has even been said that Charles is related to both women; albeit through a legitimate line.

Although blood is supposed to be thicker than water, there are limits. Especially when a distant cousin has an affair with a cousin's husband, who also happens to be a cousin. In this situation family ties are bound to get strained. Tongues wag and relations take sides. Things could have gotten nasty. Then Diana died, and everyone was saved from awkward moments at family gatherings.

But although Diana is gone, she is not forgotten.

We only need to look at the coverage of Charles and Camilla's recent American tour. Although I consider myself to be an avid royal watcher, I have no idea what Charles and Camilla did or where they went. I was too busy reading the comparisons between Charles and Diana's 1985 tour and the 2005 one. The media packed Diana's bags and brought her along. It was inevitable that this would happen, but reporting it for the entire tour? didn't the newspapers have anything better to write about?

In the current issue of Vanity Fair, there's an article titled 'Charles and Camilla, Together at Last', which makes it to the third page before it mentions Diana. True, the path to marital bliss cannot be told without mentioning how inconvenient Diana was. But do we really need to rehash every part of the drama? There's nothing new in this article. No explosive revelations. Nothing we haven't heard royal experts heatedly discuss on Larry King.

Few remain neutral when discussing Camilla and Diana. Although the Camilla campaign has won much of the public over, for the unconverted, the consensus is to blame Camilla for everything that went wrong in Diana's marriage, and her resulting death. If the monarchy eventually implodes, that will be Camilla's fault too.

It seems that Camilla will always live under the specter of Diana. In the absence of accomplishments on Camilla's part, it's more interesting to compare the two. After all, has Camilla walked through a mine field? shook hands with an Aids patient? had everyone from her childhood nanny to her spiritual advisor write a book about her? caused a massive outpouring of global grief at her death? We'll have to wait and see. For now Diana takes the lead in those categories.

So many of the comparisons between Camilla and Diana are negative towards Camilla. But like Diana, I'm sure that Camilla has her own remarkable qualities. Her ability to be down to earth is not unlike Diana's common touch. Like Diana, she has renewed interest in the monarchy. She may never make the same impact or be as universally lauded, but does she need to? If we can leave the past behind and focus on all of the positive that Camilla can bring to her role, then in time Camilla may have a chance to make her own mark. Then those comparisons can be put to good use.

And that may not be such a bad thing afterall.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

Prayers for Camilla

Just when we thought that Camilla has finally been accepted, she gets snubbed again! This time, she's being excluded from the state prayers. The Queen, Prince Philip and the Prince of Wales are included. When Diana was still in the fold, she was included too. In hindsight, we should have been praying for Diana more. So why not give Camilla the same theologial sanction?

Of course, this is not intended as a snub, she is, after all, included in the prayers for the rest of the royal family. But the problem is, she's not just any member of the family, she's the wife of the Prince of Wales and she should be treated with all of the respect that position entails.

If anyone deserves prayers it's Camilla. Prayers for the baptism of fire people have put her through. Prayers for the cruel comments levelled at her. Prayers for all of the comparisons she's had to endure. Prayers for having to defer to her 'She who must be obeyed' mother-in-law.

Don't you feel as though we've been fooled all along? That all of the supposed signals of her acceptance: marrying Prince Charles, Harry and William 'loving her to bits', appearing on the royal Christmas card, being loaned a priceless tiara, and getting 'pass the salt' proximity to the Queen at the Norwegian banquet in October, mean nothing?

Hasn't the Queen and her courtiers learned from previous experience? Diana? the civil ceremony snub? If they're not going to give her respect outright then why not just make a show of it? Leave her in the prayers once and then no one will notice. I know I don't pay attention.

Let us pray the Queen will start.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Naming of a Prince

When my daughter was born in November 2004, within minutes of her birth, the first question the nurses asked was "What's her name?"

Despite having to withstand the pressure of 'suggestions' from family members, although we had some ideas, we hadn't really settled on anything and she remained, alternately, the Baby/Her/She/It for about 2 weeks until the deadline for registering her birth came up. Had we not been forced to decide, she would probably have been known as 'It' for a while. No doubt, she will thank us later.

Imagining the pressure we faced after 2 weeks, I can only speculate on what the Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary of Denmark are enduring since their son was born on October 15th. They have over 400 years of tradition weighing down on them, so it's not a decision to be taken lightly. But as per Danish tradition, his name will not be announced until his christening on January 21st.

In the British royal family, at one point it was the norm to release the names one month afterwards. Prince Charles broke with this tradition; Prince William was named within a week of his birth, and Prince Harry within 19 hours. Although protocol is observed, most European royal families don't seem to have this custom. The names of recent royal babies in the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium have been announced within a few days. So why the wait?

There is quite a bit of discussion on what his name will be. If they continue with tradition, it's likely that it will be Christian as most King's of Denmark have alternated between Frederik and Christian as their given name. Possessing an ability to divine the future, has created his page using that name. However, maybe the Crown couple will choose something different. But naming an heir is a serious affair, so it's wise that they take their time. With their second child they will have far more leeway, but don't expect any creative names that celebrity parent's tend to saddle their children with. We won't be seeing Prince Moxie Crimefighter* anytime soon.

If any event, the length of time it takes for a royal baby to be announced, gives us more time to speculate. And in the absence of any real controversy, and with nothing better to do, isn't that fun?

© Marilyn Braun 2005

* Moxie Crimefighter is an actual name of a celebrity child

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Reminders of Grace

Since the tragic death of Princess Grace of Monaco in 1982, her family has never been the same. Her husband, the late Prince Ranier never remarried. Princess Caroline has been de facto First Lady of Monaco for 23 years. Her youngest daughter, Princess Stephanie, lives under the shadow of rumors and questions regarding the accident. Out of her children, her death has probably affected Prince Albert and Monaco's future, the most.

Prince Albert has stated on several occassions, the difficulty of finding a spouse who can live up to the inevitable comparisons to his mother. And there is a tremendous amount to live up to. Elegant, serene, beautiful, Grace Kelly was the best thing to ever happen to Monaco; she put the country, smaller than New York's Central Park, on the map. It's also hard to compete with someone whose grave is Monaco's major tourist attraction.

Until the 2002 changes to the constitution allowed for Prince Albert's sisters and their children to inherit the throne in the event he remained a bachelor, there was concern about when he would get married, to whom, and when he would produce the requisite heir to save Monaco from losing its independant nation status to France. To the relief of everyone, the law was changed. The discussions about Prince Albert's love life haven't.

Every woman that Prince Albert has ever openly dated, stood next to, or talked briefly with, have been compared to his mother. The stunning supermodel Claudia Schiffer, with her blonde hair and blue eyes, came close to matching Princess Grace's loveliness. Should she have married him, she too would have kept people talking about Monaco. Alas it was not meant to be.

Princess Caroline and Princess Stephanie, although glamourous and beautiful, cannot be compared to their mother physically or tempermentally. It must be difficult to live up to a mother who publicly never put a foot wrong. Which is really too bad. Thus the pressure on Prince Albert to find a replacement.

In the absence of a wife for Albert, her grandchildren have now come into play. Her eldest granddaughter, Charlotte Casiraghi, has been compared to having the elegance and stylishness of her grandmother; despite looking absolutely nothing like her. The Princess'genetics continue with Andrea and Pierre Casiraghi, both of whom look like they've stepped out of a Calvin Klein ad. As of yet, Princess Stephanie's children are too young to know whether they can fill the void.

Princess Grace's death was more than just a tragic accident. Monaco lost a special, irreplaceable jewel in the process.

Time will tell if they can ever replace it.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

Friday, December 02, 2005

Discovering Royalty

My interest in British royalty started when I was a teenager, and other than Monaco and America's royal family - the Kennedy's, I didn't take much notice of other monarchies. Some I didn't even know existed.

Unbeknownst to me, they were out there.

It wasn't until a few years ago, surfing on the web, that I located sites about royalty. Up to that point I felt quite alone. No one else seemed to share my interest and with the exception of royal weddings and births, there wasn't much out there in the way of news. Boy was I wrong! There was lots of information out there, and a lot of people who shared my interest. Now, I have a quite a few sources for information and news, which I mentioned in my Recommended Royalty sites article.

You may feel the same way, wanting more information but not knowing where to get it. That's why, in my links section, I have listed official sites where you can learn more, as well as some other sites of interest, such as Althorp and Burke's Peerage. In my References section I have listed a new site about English Monarchs which will provide you with a tremendous amount of information on the history of Kings and Queen's of England. Alt.Talk.Royalty has an amazing list of FAQ's on royalty. If you want information on Russian royalty, the Alexander Palace Time Machine is the place to go. Several of the links I've listed include message boards where you can discuss royalty with other people.

My blog mainly covers British royalty and it's the monarchy I'm most familiar with. But there's more to royalty than Charles and Camilla. I've discovered other monarchies and I've started to follow them as well - Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Japan. So I've decided to branch out and from time to time I will write articles about them too. Occasionally I have written about them in my Royal Glamour Girls and A Cinderella Story articles, but for the most part I've stayed with the main theme of the blog.

So, stay tuned for articles on non-British royalty.

© Marilyn Braun 2005