Exploring 10 years of Royal Christmas Messages

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Almost 1 person out of 5 could have difficulties understanding Her Majesty’s broadcast.

A photo of Queen Elizabeth II
The Queen waxwork at Madame Tussauds Photo by Choo Yut Shing, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For many, the Queen’s speech is a well-established appointment during the afternoon of Christmas Eve. It represents a chance for Buckingham Palace to make an assessment on the past year, going through major events.

Birmingham Eastside has looked at and analysed the text of the past 10 years messages.

Find out which words give meaning to the present age 🕵️

Frequent word usage establishes the mood of a certain historical period. They are a response to significant events, from bright achievements to crises to recent losses. The following analysis takes into account the prepandemic period (x-axis) and compares it with these two years (y-axis).

Each blue dot contains a word used in one or both of these periods.

Queen’s Christmas speech most used words

The Queen’s role “is to serve as a nonpartisan symbol of the nation, constitutional continuity, and moral authority”, as stated by the Council on foreign relations. It is no wonder that people, world, family and commonwealth were the most common words used throughout the Christmas speeches of the last decade. These reflect her duties and the vitality of the Commonwealth integration, from their quadrennial Games (2014–18–22) to the biennial Heads of Government Meetings.

At the bottom of the graph, many different kinds of words stand out representing key aspects of the 9 years of the Queen’s reign that came before the pandemic.

Words such as:

⏳ Time: used to express novelty and how, quoting Neil Armstrong’s words, not the giant leaps but the small steps are what bring lasting change in the world.

⚔️ War: regarding the two major conflicts of the XXth Century. 2014 was the centenary of the outbreak of World War I and 2015 was the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

🤔 Reflection: on her reign, 60 years of commitment to the Country and to the changes that have occurred since then.

⬛️ Darkness: addressing the spread of terrorism and the sorrow of losing loved ones.


On the other hand, on the left echo words that were spoken in these two years of the pandemic.

Words such as:

🕯 Light: the first of three “litmus papers” of the present period defined by the common struggle against the pandemicSpeaking about the challenges of 2020, the Queen compares people’s indomitable rise to a new dawn.

🤞 Hope: from Florence Nightingale to Parable of the Good Samaritan to The Tomb of The Unknown Warrior. These examples of people serving society were brought up in response to the Covid crisis.

🤰 Birth: highlights the role of future generations in tackling new societal issues, mainly concerning the environment.

Are the Queen’s speeches accessible to everyone? 👧👨👵

Lastly, we have readability which is very important as the Queen’s message is destined to all the Nation and the Commonwealth. Simplicity and straightforwardness are key factors to take into consideration.

Seven readability formulas were used to measure these characteristics, the most famous being the Flesch Reading Ease Readability Formula.

Readability level of the Queen’s speech in relation to citizens’ highest qualification

Almost 1 person out of 5 hasn’t reached an NQF level 2 qualification, which generally is achieved at the age of 14, writes the Education and training statistics for the UK in 2021The linguistic barrier mostly affects women, with the percentage increasing with age all across ethnic groups. On the other hand, more women gain access to higher education both as undergraduates and as masters students.

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