Christmas Broadcast 1999


This December we are looking back not just on one year, but on a hundred years and a thousand years.

At the end of 1999 The Queen's Christmas Broadcast looked forward to the start of a new century and a new millennium, as well as looking at the lessons of history. The broadcast, filmed in the White Drawing Room of Windsor Castle, featured film of a reception for young achievers at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and a reception for members of the emergency services at Buckingham Palace.

A very Happy Christmas to you all. Listening to the choir from St. George's Chapel, Windsor, reminds me that this season of carols and Christmas trees is a time to take stock; a time to reflect on the events of the past year and to make resolutions for the new year ahead.

This December we are looking back not just on one year, but on a hundred years and a thousand years. History is measured in centuries. More than ever we are aware of being a tiny part of the infinite sweep of time when we move from one century and one millennium to another.

And as I look to the future I have no doubt at all that the one certainty is change - and the pace of that change will only seem to increase.

This is true for all of us - young and old. On my mother's ninety-ninth birthday last August I was struck by how the inevitability of change affects us all, and how different were my mother's early years compared with those of my grandchildren.

For many of their generation the future is a source of excitement, hope and challenge.

For others however the future is a cause of understandable anxiety. There are many, for example, of my age or amongst the more vulnerable in society who worry that they will be left behind. The sheer rate of change seems to be sweeping away so much that is familiar and comforting.

But I do not think that we should be over-anxious. We can make sense of the future - if we understand the lessons of the past. Winston Churchill, my first Prime Minister, said that "the further backward you look, the further forward you can see".

It was this importance of history which was much on my mind when I opened the new Scottish Parliament in July this year. Devolution in Scotland and Wales, and more recently the very welcome progress in Northern Ireland, are responses to today's changed circumstances, but they need to be seen in their historical contexts.

History and a common past have also played an important part in bringing together so many different nations into the modern Commonwealth.

This was a frequent theme last month at the Commonwealth conference in South Africa.

At that meeting many of us highlighted the way in which the varied strands of our shared history have been woven together so that we can more effectively address the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The Commonwealth, as with the process of devolution in the United Kingdom, reminds us of the importance of bringing the lessons of the past to bear on the aspirations for a better future.

To do this we need to draw from our history those constant and unchanging values which have stood the test of time and experience. Fairness and compassion, justice and tolerance; these are the landmarks from the past which can guide us through the years ahead.

These timeless values tell us above all about the way we should relate to people rather than to things; thinking of others, not just of ourselves.

Earlier this autumn in Manchester I visited some of the emergency services, whose responsibilities day in and day out are based on concern for others. As always they are on duty over these Christmas and New Year holidays.

Up and down the country people like those firemen, nurses and ambulancemen I met are working tirelessly to help others. They remind us of the responsibility of each and every one of us to show concern for our neighbours and those less fortunate than ourselves. I believe that this provides us with the direction and resolve required for the years ahead.

The future is not only about new gadgets, modern technology or the latest fashion, important as these may be. At the centre of our lives - today and tomorrow - must be the message of caring for others, the message at the heart of Christianity and of all the great religions.

This message - love thy neighbour as thyself - may be for Christians 2,000 years old. But it is as relevant today as it ever was. I believe it gives us the guidance and the reassurance we need as we step over the threshold into the twenty-first century.

And I for one am looking forward to this new Millennium.

May I wish you all a Merry Christmas and, in this year of all years, a very Happy New Year.

Related content

The Queen's Commonwealth Day Message 2021

Stirring examples of courage, commitment and selfless dedication to duty have been demonstrated in every Commonwealth nation and territory.

07 March 2021

The 75th Anniversary of VE Day

The 75th Anniversary of VE Day

Commonwealth Day 2020

09 March 2020

The Queen's 2020 Commonwealth Day Message

Such a blend of traditions serves to make us stronger, individually and collectively, by providing the ingredients needed for social, political and economic resilience

09 March 2020

A speech by The Countess of Wessex celebrating the work of The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust

On behalf of the people The Trust has helped thank you to each and every one of you for all your incredible support, and to Your Majesty thank you for choosing to give the...

29 October 2019

International Youth Day 2019

12 August 2019

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2018

Find out more about Royal events at this year's meeting, which is being held in London

Commonwealth Day 2018

12 March 2018

A Message from Her Majesty The Queen on the opening of the 2017 Commonwealth Science Conference

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the Commonwealth Science Conference in Singapore following the success of the Bangalore Conference in 2014. I am very grateful...

13 June 2017

A message from Her Majesty The Queen to the people of Barbados on the 50th Anniversary of Independence

Since you became an independent country in 1966, you have continued to flourish and grow into a strong and confident nation.

30 November 2016

A speech by Prince Harry on the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy dedication in St Lucia

On behalf of my grandmother, The Queen, I am grateful to the Government and the people of St. Lucia for this most generous contribution.

27 November 2016

Remembrance 2016

The Queen and the Royal Family attend engagements to mark Remembrance 2016

Royal Maundy Service 2016

24 March 2016

The Queen's Commonwealth Day message, 14 March 2016

Being inclusive and accepting diversity goes far deeper than accepting differences at face value and being tolerant.

14 March 2016

The Queen's Young Leaders

The Queen’s Young Leader Award celebrates exceptional people from across the Commonwealth

The Queen's Message to the Athletes

The baton relay represents a calling together of people from every part of the Commonwealth.

23 July 2014

Commonwealth Day message 2008

In the Commonwealth, governments, businesses, communities and individuals should each strive to match words and good intentions with deeds. Every contribution has its part to...

10 March 2008

Christmas Broadcast 2015

I have been warned I may have Happy Birthday sung to me more than once or twice.

25 December 2015

Commonwealth Day message 2007

Despite its size and scale, the Commonwealth to me is still at heart a collection of villages.

12 March 2007

Opening the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, Nigeria, 5 December 2005

The Commonwealth is one of the great partnerships of the world where rich and poor, large and small, work together for the common good.

05 December 2015

A speech by The Queen at the CHOGM Dinner, Malta, 2015

Thank you, Mr Prime Minister of Canada, for making me feel so old!

27 November 2015

A speech by The Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta, 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, I feel enormously proud of what the Commonwealth has achieved, and all of it within my lifetime

27 November 2015

A speech by The Queen at the Inauguration of the General Synod, 2015

St. Paul reminds us that all Christians, as ambassadors for Christ, are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation.

24 November 2015

Christmas Broadcast 2011

It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today, and so give us hope for tomorrow.

17 November 2015

Christmas Broadcast 2012

At Christmas I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story.

17 November 2015

Christmas Broadcast 1997

Being united - that is, feeling a unity of purpose - is the glue that bonds together the members of a family, a country, a Commonwealth.

16 November 2015

Christmas Broadcast 2002

All great religions have such times of renewal, moments to take stock before moving on to face the challenges which lie ahead.

16 November 2015

Christmas Broadcast 1977

My hope this Christmas is that the Christian spirit of reconciliation may burn as strongly in our hearts during the coming year.

11 November 2015

Christmas Broadcast 1972

In the United Kingdom we have our own particular sorrows in Northern Ireland and I want to send a special message of sympathy to all those men, women and children who have...

10 November 2015

Christmas Broadcast 1974

My message today is one of encouragement and hope.

10 November 2015

Christmas Broadcast 1975

Then Christmas comes, and once again we are reminded that people matter, and it is our relationship with one another that is most important.

10 November 2015