THE BBC titled it The King’s Christmas Broadcast, commercial channels opted for HM The King, while Channel 4, as per, went its own way with an alternative festive message from a robot.

Whatever the name, this was history in the making. The first annual address of King Charles III, and the first from a male monarch that was not heard down a wooden, crackly "wireless" the size of a small child.

Come Christmas 2022, everything has changed yet nothing has fundamentally altered in the Crown’s relationship with the people. The new King’s task, to look Janus-like at the year gone and the one ahead was the same as that undertaken by Queen Elizabeth in 2021.

Just as she had reflected upon the loss of Prince Philip, “the familiar laugh missing this year”, King Charles paid tribute to his late mother by speaking from the Chapel of St George at Windsor Castle, close to his parents’ last resting place.

But where the old Queen had spoken in general terms of the year to come, looking forward to the Commonwealth Games and the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the new King’s message was tethered in the here and now, a place of altogether bumpier terrain.

He spoke about the “great anxiety and hardship” experienced by many trying to “pay their bills and keep their families fed and warm”. There was footage of a food bank and other scenes of meals being distributed to homeless people.

We saw public sector workers, among them nurses, ambulance staff and teachers, many of whom have taken part in strikes for higher pay this year and look set to do so again if no settlement can be reached.

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All of this in a festive period in which the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, was filmed asking a homeless person if they worked in business. “I used to work in finance,” the PM said as the nation's toes curled as one.

Make no mistake. King Charles’ Christmas message was more political, with a small “p” than those of his predecessors, and as such marks a change.

George V made the first Christmas broadcast in 1932. The idea came from a Scot, John Reith, the BBC’s first director-general, who saw the speech as a way of connecting with the public at home and in the wider Commonwealth.

It then fell to the Queen’s father, George VI, to carry on the tradition until his death in 1952.

Through war and peace, boom and bust, the broadcast has become a part of Christmas in many households. Unlike the speech that opens the parliamentary year, which the Government of the day writes, the Christmas broadcast is a chance for the monarch to speak directly to the public.

In choosing to include contemporary problems such as the cost of living crisis, alongside more familiar themes as faith and community, he was reflecting his concerns. (In faith, too, he rang the changes, referring to “whatever faith you have, or whether you have none”.) Alongside the references to current concerns and events, the speech was remarkable for what it left out as much as what it contained.

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Queen Elizabeth had her annus horribilis. With the loss of his mother in September, a distancing between himself and his youngest son, and scandal involving the brother closest to him in age, the past 12 months for Charles amount to an annus turbidus.

The most significant television event of the year was not the Christmas message but a six-part, Netflix excoriation of the monarchy by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, both notably absent from 2022’s message.

The people of the United Kingdom have been through tempests of their own. Three Prime Ministers, economic upheaval and loss, war erupting in Europe, a cost of living crisis deeper and wider than any in living memory. 2021 was a year that defied expectation and sometimes explanation.

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And what of the year to come? There will be the coronation on May 6. Like the Christmas broadcast, this will be a chance for Charles III to set out what his vision of a modern monarchy.

With a life lived in the public domain for all of his 74 years, we may think we know a lot about the new King and his views. With this Christmas broadcast he has set out to show that he, and the monarchy, can change with the times, albeit in a subtle fashion. Whether it is enough to put him in step with the country we shall see.