King Charles praises 'selfless army of volunteers' in Christmas speech as he thanks public for support during Coronation

25 December 2023, 15:10 | Updated: 25 December 2023, 15:18

King Charles delivers his Christmas speech
King Charles delivers his Christmas speech. Picture: ITN
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

King Charles praised the "selfless army" of volunteers serving communities across the country, describing them as the "essential backbone of our society", in his second Christmas Day speech.

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The monarch said the presence of community stalwarts among his Coronation guests emphasised the meaning of the ceremony, which he labelled "a call to us all to serve one another".

Charles concluded his speech by thanking those who were "caring for our common home", as he also referenced events in Ukraine and Gaza.

There was also a big focus on the environment, as Charles stood in front of a live, potted Christmas tree that will be replanted after the festive season.

The British Royal Family Attend The Christmas Morning Service
The British Royal Family Attend The Christmas Morning Service. Picture: Getty

Referencing ongoing conflicts across the world, the King said: "And at a time of increasingly tragic conflict around the world, I pray that we can also do all in our power to protect each other.

"The words of Jesus seem more than ever relevant: 'Do to others as you would have them do to you'."

Charles, who recently launched his Coronation Food Project to support charities feeding the disadvantaged with unwanted produce, said: "We need to build on existing ways to support others less fortunate than ourselves."

Read it in full: King Charles' Christmas Day speech

There was also an environmental element to the address from the King, who has spent much of his adult life defending the planet.

He told the country that he had found "great inspiration" from the many people who recognise "we must protect the Earth and our natural world".

The Christmas broadcast, the second of Charles's reign, was delivered standing up in Buckingham Palace's centre room which opens onto the famous balcony overlooking The Mall.

The Queen Victoria Memorial could be seen in the background.

King Charles III Delivers His Christmas Address
King Charles III Delivers His Christmas Address. Picture: Getty

The King told the nation and Commonwealth: "Over this past year my heart has been warmed by countless examples of the imaginative ways in which people are caring for one another - going the extra mile to help those around them simply because they know it is the right thing to do: at work and at home; within and across communities.

"My wife and I were delighted when hundreds of representatives of that selfless army of people - volunteers who serve their communities in so many ways and with such distinction - were able to join us in Westminster Abbey for the coronation earlier this year.

"They are an essential backbone of our society."

Footage was shown of seated coronation guests, the King processing through the abbey after his crowning, and finally appearing on the palace's balcony with the Queen as they acknowledged the crowds with a wave.

Charles added: "Their presence meant so much to us both and emphasised the meaning of coronation itself: above all, a call to us all to serve one another; to love and care for all."

Brits wait to greet the Royal Family on Christmas Day
Brits wait to greet the Royal Family on Christmas Day. Picture: PA

The Christmas broadcast was written by the King and had a strong Christian element, a reflection of the head of state who described himself as a "committed Anglican Christian" during a reception for faith leaders after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

For the second successive year the King recognised other faiths, describing how "great religions of the world" celebrated festivals with a special meal, and how it was the responsibility of "people of all faiths and of none" to care for the natural world.

Read More: King Charles jokes about having 'sausage fingers' with Prince William in new Coronation footage

Footage was shown of Charles and Camilla visiting a food distribution hub in Oxfordshire to launch his Coronation Food Project.

The Prince and Princess of Wales and their children were also featured in a clip, helping scouts from the 3rd Upton Scout Group in Slough renovate their hut and grounds, as part of The Big Help Out event, during the coronation celebration weekend.

As the films were shown, Charles said: "Throughout the year, my family have witnessed how people of all ages are making a difference to their communities.

"This is all the more important at a time of real hardship for many, when we need to build on existing ways to support others less fortunate than ourselves."

Charles featured in another clip planting a tree with 10-year-old environmental activist Karen Kimani in Nairobi during his recent state visit to Kenya, and meeting litter pickers on a beach in Mombasa.

The King said: "To care for this creation is a responsibility owned by people of all faiths and of none. We care for the Earth for the sake of our children's children."

The broadcast began with military musicians from the Household Division Symphonic Brass playing the National Anthem from a balcony overlooking Buckingham Palace's quadrangle, and ended with the Bexley Music Primary Choir performing the carol While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.

Highlights from the royal year were screened showing the King and Queen, Princess Royal and Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh attending events.

William and Kate and their family were pictured arriving for the princess's Westminster Abbey carol concert, and the footage ended with Charles's final coronation day appearance on the palace balcony.

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