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A brief history of the Queen’s Christmas hot takes

Tara Ward pours a sherry and peers back through the archives of a holiday institution: the Queen’s Christmas message.

Her Majesty the Queen’s Christmas Message is perfectly timed for New Zealand audiences. Come hell or high water, at 6.50pm each Christmas Day Her Majesty drops her hot take on the year’s events, while we — having hit peak Christmas three hours earlier — lie bloated and drunk on the couch, wearing our new socks and undies on top of our clothes. Or so I’ve heard.

The Queen’s Message is the whipped cream on top of the cracked pavlova of world events. Every year, shit things happen, and every year, Her Majesty rocks up to tell us to keep calm and carry on, smothering those political or environmental shitstorms in a tasty layer of moral decency and stoic perseverance. No wonder they call her Queen.

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The Queen’s Message is a festive tradition like dry fruitcake or disappointing cracker contents; without the Queen on the telly, it’s simply not Christmas. It’s not so much what Her Majesty says, but the reassuring fact that she keeps saying it. She’s 90, for crying out loud, she should be drinking sherry and eating swan sandwiches 24/7,  not worrying about us clowns at the bottom of the world.

This isn’t your safe space to argue that the Queen is irrelevant, that the monarchy is outdated, or that William is hotter than Harry. I have seven boxes of Cadbury Favourites sitting under the tree all calling my name, and they’re not saying “Christmas is the perfect time for a political debate.” Instead, they’re saying “it isn’t Christmas Day without the Queen’s Message,” or maybe “eat until the elastic pops on your Christmas Fat Pants.” It’s hard to tell.

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So, don your favourite tiara and recline comfortably upon your throne, as we pay tribute to the festive steam train of tradition that is Her Majesty the Queen’s Christmas Message.

1957: the world was black and white

Strangely, the excitement of delivering her first televised message failed to raise a smile on the royal dial. It seems 1957 was a shit year, filled with “unthinking people” and “corrupt cynics”, and although Her Majesty didn’t name names I hope the entire Commonwealth was thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

To lighten the mood, the Queen read from Pilgrim’s Progress, the classic self-help bestseller filled with festive LOLs. But who could pay attention to the Queen’s message, when beside her sat a photo of Prince Charles stuck up a tree? Classic Queen parenting, right there.

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1968: the brotherhood of man

It was ‘sun’s out, guns out’ in 1968, when Her Majesty appeared in a glorious tangerine vision of regal amazingness. The Queen wouldn’t make TV One’s news team with those bare arms, but thankfully she had bigger worries on her mind, like the dangers of materialism. After all, who better to warn about the perils of greed than one of the world’s most richest women?

As in 1957, Elizabeth banged on about the importance of belonging to the “great brotherhood of man.” Sadly, she didn’t elaborate about what this imperial sausagefest meant or how you could become a member, but she did say it was a phrase with a “splendid ring” to it. Ding, dong.

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1985: good news everywhere

Forget the terrorists and famines and plagues of locusts that descended upon the earth in 1985, for the Queen had more good tidings than she could shake her sceptre at. She spent weeks scouring her three drawer filing cabinet for some Good News Stories, because who amongst us in the Brotherhood of Man doesn’t enjoy a proper yarn at Christmas?

Take, for example, the clever bloke exporting darts to the world. He spread the joy of these tiny sharp missiles to the ignorant masses in far away lands, much like the imperial spread of syphillis and tuberculosis. I feel better already. God Save the Queen and her thrilling paperwork.

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2000: Ken and Charles is the romance of the millenium

It was the dawning of a new age, but sadly, Elizabeth’s priorities were all up the wazoo. She spent way too long talking about the importance of the millennium and it’s relevance to the birth of Christ, and not enough time talking about Prince Charles meeting Ken Barlow.

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Ken Barlow would say it, Queen Elizabeth would say it, the entire Brotherhood of Man would say it: the millennium was a time of colossal, mind-blowing progress. Check out this amazing shot of the Queen turning herself off. What a time to be alive.

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2016: Go Shorty, it’s your birthday

This year marks the Queen’s 90th birthday, so I’m picking she’ll deliver her annual message a wee bit sozzled, with a paper hat crammed onto her immaculate perm and a party hooter hanging out of the corner of her mouth. Yaas, Queen.

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Highlights of the 2016 speech will include Her Majesty’s thoughts on Lemonade, the revelation of secret palace Pokemon Go locations, and confirmation that Suits is Prince Phillip’s latest binge-watch. And fingers crossed that she’ll finally tell us what the bloody hell the Brotherhood of Man is.


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