King Charles III Gives Eco-Themed Message Alongside Living Christmas Tree

Jonathan Brady/Pool Photo via AP
Britain’s King Charles III poses for a photo, during the recording of his Christmas message at Buckingham Palace, in London, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2023.

LONDON – King Charles III’s annual festive address saw the British monarch posing next to a replantable tree festooned with dried oranges while delivering a message that acknowledged the “growing awareness” of the need to protect the planet.

The monarch’s Christmas message has long been a fixture in Britain – like wearing silly Christmas sweaters or colored paper hats.

The speeches are uncontentious – and this year’s was no exception. But it’s also one of the few times the monarch delivers a speech they write themselves, without government guidance, meaning royal watchers pay close attention. The address is normally viewed by millions in Britain and Commonwealth countries.

Charles, like his mother Queen Elizabeth II did during her long reign, used his speech to reference current affairs, the Christian faith and his reflections on the year of his coronation. This is Charles’s second Christmas address since ascending to the throne in 2022.

The king touched on an issue close to his heart – the environment. Charles is a noted conservationist known for his strong opinions on climate change. But during his first year as monarch, he kept much of his advocacy in check. And while he has acknowledged he can’t speak out the way he once did, Charles this year has shown that the environment is still a subject he cares about deeply.

In 2023, he gave a speech to world leaders at COP28 – the U.N. Climate Change Conference – visited eco-themed projects on a state visit to France, and launched a food waste project on his 75th birthday.

He also made sustainability a key point in his Christmas messaging and the backdrop of the broadcast.

“During my lifetime I have been so pleased to see a growing awareness of how we must protect the Earth and our natural world as the one home which we all share,” Charles said.

“I find great inspiration now from the way so many people recognize this – as does the Christmas story, which tells us that angels brought the message of hope first to shepherds. These were people who lived simply amongst others of God’s creatures. Those close to nature were privileged that night,” he said.

In the video, Charles was seen standing next to a living Christmas tree that journalists were told would be replanted after the broadcast. The decorations included dried oranges, pine cones and paper.

In a carefully worded section, he addressed what he described as “conflict around the world” although he refrained from naming specific countries.

“At a time of increasingly tragic conflict around the world, I pray we can also do all in our power to protect each other,” he said. “The words of Jesus seem more than ever relevant: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ Such values are universal, drawing together our Abrahamic family of religions, and other belief systems, across the Commonwealth and wider world.”

The speech was prerecorded from a room in London’s Buckingham Palace that leads out onto the balcony where royals gather on significant occasions to wave at their subjects, as they did during Charles and Camilla’s coronation earlier this year.

The king did refer to the coronation. “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.”

He called volunteers “an essential backbone of our society.”

Unlike Elizabeth, Charles did not surround himself with family photos. In previous years, the photos on display have drawn attention for who is – and isn’t – included.

Charles and Camilla were not at Buckingham Palace on Christmas Day. They were at their Sandringham estate where they attended their traditional Christmas Day church service. The king’s disgraced brother, Prince Andrew, joined the royal family at the church service, as did Andrew’s ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson.

They were joined by several other members of the House of Windsor, including William and Catherine, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and their three children.