Buckingham Palace, and, as we enter 2006, the British Royal Family continues trying to come to terms with the unprecedented reviews for Her Majesty The Queen's 2005 Christmas day message. Newspaper and magazine coverage has been dreadful without exception, as comments in the press range from "banal" to "repetitively obvious", and, in one memorable instance, "the same monotonous burblings from an uninterested old dear. Well-meaning, but displaying the same understanding of world events as that of a nine year old girl watching Newsround".
In the face of this overwhelming backlash, Royal spokesman James Moat-Gloucester today met with a group of hostile reporters to defend his employer and put across Elizabeth's side of the story.
"Gentlemen, I understand you were only trying to represent Her Majesty's subjects and their supposed disillusionment with this year's festive greeting, but the level of vitriol and bad feeling in your notices was entirely inappropriate." There followed a clatter of hurled accusations from the gathered hacks, after which Moat-Gloucester was forced to adopt a more conciliatory tone. "Naturally I understand this year's message wasn't one of her best. Even the Queen accepts that, but this isn't Bob Hope we're talking about. 2005 was the fifty-second of these speeches Her Majesty has delivered and she simply doesn't have the advantage of zeitgeisty young writers thinking up new ideas for her every December. Of course certain themes or motifs will reoccur over half a century, but to say, as one journalist did, that "one could feed this array of typical Queenly platitudes into a computer, mix them up with the year's crises and instantly print out her next speech" is beyond the pale, and possibly even treasonous."
After the press conference Home Defence met with Moat-Gloucester privately in the Palace kennels where, between tending several overweight corgis, he gave a more personal take on the media's response to December 25th.
"In many ways Lizzie Windsor is a victim of her own success." The spokesman asserted while feeding brisket to several ravenous canines. "Her 2004 message was so well received and visually arresting, with appeals for tolerance and racial harmony really striking a chord. Then there was the footage of her visits to temples and mosques which appealed to the Sikh and Jewish communities, and finishing with that personal anecdote about the black fellow on the tube was a masterstroke. You remember? The man who liked all the little multicoloured kids running round his carriage? Everybody loved that, it was her 'I'd like to teach the world to sing' moment. We got some fantastic feedback for 2004, the best since that time she broadcasted live from an aircraft carrier and everybody said it reminded them of Cher's video for 'If I Could Turn Back Time'. "To be honest, I'm surprised the backlash has taken this long. I thought the critics would have turned on the Queen six years ago when her carefully prepared speech somehow morphed into a three-minute rant against the paparazzi. Or that time she paid a professional Queen impersonator to do it because she couldn't be bothered. Or what about the Christmas she didn't write anything in advance, then tried to wing it by improvising anecdotes on the blitz before degenerating into incoherence? But there was a wellspring of respect for Her Majesty around the fourth estate in those days, something which clearly no longer exists." The British tradition of a royal addressing the general population (or 'serfs' as they're known) through the medium of television began in 1932 with the Queen's grandfather reading some Rudyard Kipling poems out loud, sending much of the nation into a nice Christmas Day sleep. Our present monarch took over the job of recording a ten minute talk to the cameras in 1952 and has continued with her regular yuletide appearance each year since (apart from 1969 when Elizabeth's PR people advised her to cry off, citing several documentaries about the monarchy that year which had led to overkill and "market
The 2005 speech progressed very much as usual, with early rumours the Queen would make a concession to
the younger generation by delivering her message in the form of a 'rap' proving unfounded. Instead it was the
normal six minutes of reassuring clichés as young boys in red jerkins sang something Christmassy behind
her. At first glance the broadcast seemed almost too innocuous to spark an outcry, but most television
writers were scathing.
"Here's a summary of the speech for anyone who missed it." Wrote William Leith in The Times. "Blah,
blah... 7/7 attacks... Blah, blah... tsunami, floods and earthquakes... Blah-de-blah... difficult times for all... Blah, blah... will this do?" While in The Sun Garry Bushell called for The Queen to refund licence fees from her own pocket and The Guardian asked how many times Her Majesty had delivered effectively the same message in a slightly different way: "It always amounts to: Things have been tough this year, but at least we've got Jesus. God will see us through, I love him and so should all of you!" Before the paper added. "What the hell is The Commonwealth anyway?"
Perhaps the most negative response came from an unexpected source, The Telegraph's guest critic Toke Sewell, penning a vicious polemic against the tradition, filled with admonishing phrases and quotes from Her Majesty: "I believe it  has shown how our faith whatever our religion, can inspire us to work together in friendship and peace. Really ma'am? Does that include those blokes who blew themselves up on the tube? Put your trust in God! Yeah, tell that to New Orleans. Then she said, and I'm not making this up; our world is not a safe or easy place to live in. No shit Indeed, it was Toke Sewell's profanity-spattered column which finally drew a furious defence from Royal Equerries, writing in to remind the critic he was savaging a woman of nearly eighty, and tha every year couldn't be a memorable annus horribilis. Their argument continues: "We wonder whether Mr. Sewell would have preferred this broadcast to compete with other claims on the public's attention by including expensive special effects? Perhaps he would have liked to see a giant monkey burst in and carry Prince Philip onto the Palace roof? Or a gang of farting aliens invading the Queen's quarters? In conclusion, we must remind those who would attack Her Majesty that Elizabeth was doing the best she could with the thoughts available to her. At least the Queen thinks up her own material, unlike Tony Blair. Or Ant and Dec."
But despite this robust defence, royal watchers believe the Queen still requires a serious makeover before the 2006 speech, including a re-think of the programme's format in order to reverse plummeting ratings. During the last recording even BBC crew members reported Her Majesty as extremely unhappy with the performance, the Queen grimacing as she came off-camera at 3.10pm and immediately retiring to her chambers for the traditional post-speech double scotch and twenty Silk Cut.