Queen’s speech highlights importance of sport

It might not have been a vintage year for sport, what with England's disappointing performance in the World Cup, Andy Murray's continuing failure to win a grand slam and France's dominance of the Six Nations rugby.

Yet the Queen will highlight the importance of sport as a medium that can help build communities and create harmony in her Christmas message to the nation.

The monarch's annual broadcast will also focus on how games and exercise can positively distance people from their day-to-day lives.

The Royal Family are all keen sportsmen and women who take part in a range of activities from polo to golf.

Some have even represented Britain in their chosen fields, like the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips - a former world three-day eventing champion - who followed in the footsteps of her mother the Princess Royal, who was also a member of the national equestrian team.

The Duke of Edinburgh, his son the Prince of Wales and grandsons Princes William and Harry have all played polo, with Philip and Charles now retired from the sport.

During her television address, which will be broadcast in full on Christmas Day, the Queen will say: 'In the parks of towns and cities, and on village greens up and down the country, countless thousands of people every week give up their time to participate in sport and exercise of all sorts, or simply encourage others to do so.

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'These kinds of activity are common throughout the world and play a part in providing a different perspective on life.'

The monarch's message will also focus on how sport can be used to encourage the development of vital social skills.

The importance of games is illustrated by footage showing William and Harry and a group of young African orphans from Lesotho all bonding as they play football.

The princes visited the country in June and travelled to the remote Semongkong Children's Centre to meet the youngsters during a tour of southern Africa.

Christmas Day messages are normally recorded at Buckingham Palace but this year the Queen suggested Hampton Court Palace as an alternative - the first time it has been used.

The historic building's Chapel Royal was the venue and its vaulted blue ceiling, made for Henry VIII in the 1530s and lavishly decorated with gold leaf, will be shown during the address.

The Queen is featured in footage preparing to record the broadcast and seen standing as a technician adjusts a microphone, above her head, which has a sprig of festive holly on it.

Denis Mulliner, chaplain of the palace's Chapel Royal, is seen walking through the place of worship with the monarch who is then introduced to Carl Jackson, director of music at the Chapel Royal.

At the end of the broadcast a choir of 12 boys sing the traditional Christmas carol While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night.

The Queen's speech is one of the rare occasions when she does not turn to the Government for advice and is able to voice her own views.

It is written by the monarch and usually has a strong religious framework, reflects current issues and often draws on her own experiences.

The message will be transmitted on both television and radio at 3pm on Christmas Day.

The broadcast, produced by ITN, will be available on the Royal Channel on the YouTube website.