Sovereign says...

The Kings’ and Queen’s speeches since 1908

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The speeches made by sovereigns at the State Opening of Parliament offer a (usually) annual insight into the priorities of the Government of the day.

The King’s speeches made in 1908 and October 1948 (a very brief speech in September 1948 opened Parliament’s shortest modern session) show striking differences with the 2012 Queen’s speech. Both the 1908 and 1948 addresses are dominated by foreign policy, while the latest Queen’s speech is largely domestic in focus. The 1908 speech, which opened by affirming the “friendly relations” between Britain and Germany, included archaic-sounding references to “Macedonian vilayets”, “Sultans” and “complications in Persia”. The 1948 speech was unsurprisingly concerned with repairing the “ravages of war” and addressing “a difficult situation” arising in Berlin. The 1908 and 1948 addresses sought to regulate hours of underground labour and nationalise the steel industry respectively, in contrast with the recent Queen’s speech, which promised to “reduce burdens on business”.

However, the addresses share several similarities. There were of similar length: 845 words in 1908, 1,003 in 1948 and 805 in 2012. Each expresses faith in international bodies: the International Peace Conference in 1908, the United Nations in 1948 and the G8 in 2012. Both the 1908 and 1948 speeches included policies for what is now known as ‘affordable housing’. Both the 1908 and 2012 programmes contained measures to protect children, while the 1948 objective of progressing “further towards paying our way abroad and restoring the prosperity of our country and the world” is similarly relevant today. The 2012 speech also pledges legislation to reform the House of Lords, the very issue which led to there being two State Openings in 1948.

The King’s Speech
The word cloud illustrates the content of the reigning monarch’s speeches in 1908, 1948 and 2012. Larger words were used more frequently

The word cloud illustrates the content of the reigning monarch’s speeches in 1908, 1948 and 2012

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