For Christmas Eve and Day, most of the reigning heads of state in Europe spoke to their people. They wished them a good Christmas, reflected on 2011 and talked about what to look for in the following year.
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s televised message spoke mainly of the state and goodwill visits she and her family made this year. She brought up the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to North America, her historic state visit to Ireland and the recent tour of Australia.
“The spirit of friendship so evident in both these nations can fill us all with hope,” Her Majesty said. “Relationships that years ago were once so strained have through sorrow and forgiveness blossomed into long term friendship. It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today, and so give us hope for tomorrow.
“Of course, family does not necessarily mean blood relatives but often a description of a community, organisation or nation. The Commonwealth is a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals”
The Queen then mentioned briefly the two weddings the House of Windsor saw this year – Prince William’s and Zara Philips’.
“The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together.”
Finally, Queen Elizabeth touched on the need to forgive one another. “Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.”
Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf spoke about this year’s state visits from Estonia and to Botswana. He also mentioned visiting Swedish troops in Afghanistan. “After one such trip, I am even more convinced that we must not give up. We must continue to problems and conflicts should be resolved. Peace and reconciliation are powerful forces that can win over hatred and violence.”
The King also talked about something he mentioned in his Christmas message two years ago. In it, he brought up how he and Queen Silvia wanted to open a forum to discuss children’s issues. 2011 saw the second such forum in Stockholm at the palace.
“Over 400 participants listened to representatives of various child rights issues,” His Majesty said. “It was an important day, the whole palace was filled with dedicated people who talked about how children’s rights can be strengthened in practice.”
King Carl Gustaf went on to discuss the importance of monarchy in Sweden. “My ambition is that the Royal Palace to be alive and help to tell us about our heritage and history of our country. We continuously organize exhibitions, seminars, lectures and tours of the castle. This past year we have had almost one million visitors. The royal palaces in Sweden, I would like to be open so that everyone has an opportunity to take part of our shared history.”
“Sweden is a small nation. To build a sustainable society is the importance of working across borders. That is when we reach the big goals.”
The King then ended his message with a nod to Crown Princess Victoria, who will deliver her first child next year.
King Juan Carlos of Spain’s speech was broadcasted Christmas Eve. In it, he discussed the difficulties the country has experienced with its economy and high unemployment rate.
“We have several years mired in a severe economic and financial crisis whose complex causes are not always easy to understand, but whose negative effects are evident to all. For many, sadly too obvious by their hardness. It is a crisis that is likely to modify call habits and economic and social behaviors,” His Majesty told his people.
“If Spain has achieved in recent decades the highest levels of progress and welfare of its history, we now recognize with humility to know what were the behaviors in which, as individuals and as a group, we could be wrong. Only after this recognition, and the best values of our society before we can begin to overcome this crisis.”
In addition, Juan Carlos touched on the distrust many Spaniards have for what he said was “some of our institutions”. Some translate this as him giving Spain his thoughts on the recent scandal involving his son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarin.
“I also greatly concerned about the distrust that seems to be spreading in some sectors of public opinion regarding the credibility and prestige of some of our institutions. We need rigor, professionalism and exemplary in every way. Everyone, especially people with public responsibilities, we have the duty to observe appropriate behavior, exemplary behavior.
“When misconduct occurs that do not conform to the law or ethics, it is natural that society reacts. Fortunately we live in a state of law, and any objectionable act should be tried and punished under the law. Equal justice for all,” said the King.
To end his message, King Juan Carlos talked about the recent elections, his heir Prince Felipe’s efforts in representing Spain and gave his condolences to the victims of terrorism.
Over in the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix voiced her concern for stewardship of the earth and the distribution of wealth. “Our precious planet is handled carelessly and what they give us is badly distributed,” she told the Dutch people.
She went on to talk about how personal gain and abusing the environment undermine the world’s sense of community. But she was optimistic.
“Everywhere people are already taking their own initiatives to a more conscious way of life. This offers hope for a new perspective. It is the youngsters who encourage us to do so today,” said the Queen.
“Entrepreneurs focus more and more responsible production and take into account the climatic effects. Many people work towards the conservation and teach children closely at the irreplaceable treasures of the earth. For the connection between agriculture and environment put many will enthusiastically. In all these possibilities, we can address each other. Old and new media information and call us to take responsibility, each at their own level. What starts in the small can grow into a new culture of concern for the future. Who wants to change the world, must simply begin with himself.”
Her Majesty also quoted Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi – “The earth has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.”
With that, Queen Beatrix wished the Dutch a happy Christmas.
Sources: British Monarchy, Kungahuset, Casa Real, De Telegraaf
NOTE: Once the English versions of the speeches are available, I will link them.