A portrait of King George V, painted in 1927, by Arthur Stockdale Cope, in 1927.

A portrait of King George V, painted in 1927, by Arthur Stockdale Cope, in 1927.The Royal Collection

Broadcast live from the Royal residence of Sandringham, in 1932, the King broadcast a special message to Britain's Empire on Christmas Day.

The first-ever Royal Christmas message was broadcast to Britain's Empire from Sandringham Castle, by his Royal Highness, King George V. This historic radio broadcast was written by the British journalist and writer, Rudyard Kipling, who is probably most famous for his book, The Jungle Book. 

As well as being a message of well-wishes and comfort for the British people around the world the first broadcast was a celebration of the miracle of science. The speech opens with "Through one of the marvels of modern science, I am enabled, this Christmas Day, to speak to all my peoples throughout the Empire."

In his speech, King George V addressed his subjects all over the world - from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Gibraltar, and The Irish Free State. The time of the speech, 3.00pm on Christmas Day, was chosen as the best time to ensure the King's broadcast was heard in most countries across the Empire.

The idea for the royal broadcast came from BBC Director-General Sir John Reith, who recognized the communicative potential of radio. The public's reaction to the broadcast was hugely favourable, and the King was said to be "very pleased and much moved" by the response. 

Here's the audio to King George V's Christmas speech:

Here is a transcript of King George V's 1932 speech:

"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.

"It may be that our future may lay upon us more than one stern test. Our past will have taught us how to meet it unshaken. For the present, the work to which we are all equally bound is to arrive at a reasoned tranquillity within our borders; to regain prosperity without self-seeking, and to carry with us those whom the burden of past years has disheartened or overborne.

"My life's aim has been to serve as I might, towards those ends. Your loyalty, your confidence in me has been my abundant reward.

"I speak now from my home and from my heart to you all. To men and women so cut off by the snows, the desert or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them; to those cut off from fuller life by blindness, sickness, or infirmity; and to those who are celebrating this day with their children and grandchildren. To all—to each—I wish a Happy Christmas. God Bless You!"

The Christmas Broadcast today

Even today, the Christmas Broadcast is an intrinsic part of Christmas Day festivities for many people across the Commonwealth.

Each broadcast carefully reflects current issues and concerns and shares The Queen's reflections on what Christmas means to her and to many of her listeners. Over the years, the Christmas Broadcast has acted as a chronicle of global, national, and personal events that have affected The Queen and her audience.