'Hard and critical times' - the last King's Christmas speech

King George VI delivered his final Christmas Day message less than two months before his death.

Charles III is set to deliver the first King’s Christmas message since 1951.

His grandfather, King George VI, made the last one just weeks before his death, elevating Elizabeth II to the throne.

In the speech, he touched upon the illness that would claim his life, and told how his daughter would take part in the 1952 Commonwealth tour.

Elizabeth was in Kenya on that very tour when she learned her father had died.

Here, in full, is the last King’s Christmas message:

As I speak to you today, I would like to wish you, wherever you may be, a happy Christmas. Though we live in hard and critical times, Christmas is, and always will be, a time when we can count our blessings – the blessings of home, the blessings of happy family gatherings, and the blessing of the hopeful message of Christmas.

I, myself, have every cause for deep thankfulness, for not only – by the grace of god and through the faithful skill of my doctors, surgeons and nurses – have I come through my illness, but I have learned once again that it is in bad times that we value most highly the support and sympathy of our friends.

From my peoples in these islands and in the British Commonwealth and Empire, as well as from many other countries, this support and sympathy has reached me, and I thank you now from my heart. I trust that you, yourselves, realise how greatly your prayers and good wishes have helped me and are helping me in my recovery.

It has been a great disappointment to the Queen and to myself that we have been compelled to give up, for the second time, the tour which we had planned for next year. We were looking forward to meeting my peoples in their own homes and we realise that they will share our regret that this cannot be.

I am very glad that our daughter, Princess Elizabeth, with her husband will be able to visit these countries and I know that their welcome there will be as warm as that which awaited us.

You are, most of you, now sitting at home among your families, listening to me as I speak from mine. At Christmas we feel that the old simple things matter most. They do not change, however much the world outside may seem to do so.

When we say that Christmas brings good cheer, we do not only think of material things, we think more of the feelings of friendliness and comradeship we have one for the other; and I think that, among all the blessings which we may count today, the chief one is that we are a friendly people.

We do not all think alike, of course. We are such a large family of nations that this would be difficult. We each have our own ideas, but we have come to learn that differences of opinion are not the same as quarrels.

I wonder if we realise just how precious this spirit of friendliness and kindness is. We are living in an age which is hard and cruel, and if there is anything that we can offer to the world today, perhaps it is the example of tolerance and understanding that runs like a golden thread through the great and diverse family of the British Commonwealth of nations.

I send a special message to all those who are far from their homes and families on this Christmas Day. There is nothing new in this; we are a home loving, but we have never been a ‘stay at home’ people.

During the war, we all looked forward so anxiously to the times when we should spend Christmas together at home, and now the troubles of the world are forcing so many of you to be away from your families.

And the Queen and I join with all those of our people who are thinking today of the absent ones from the family circle, some of whom may be serving in foreign lands. They may be the young men doing their National Service. They may be the officers and men of my fighting services and of the merchant services.

I know that on Christmas Day, they will be thinking of their families at home, and you will be thinking of them.

But especially we are all thinking of our friends and our sons and brothers who are now facing hardships and dangers in Malaya and Korea. A ‘band of brothers’ drawn from all parts of my Dominions.

The Queen and I wish you all near and far a happy Christmas and a prosperous and peaceful New Year.

Watch King Charles III’s first Christmas message on STV and the STV Player at 3pm on Christmas Day.

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