By Ray Fleming
QUEEN Elizabeth's Christmas broadcast yesterday was the most accomplished of the many she has given during her reign. The subject – service to the country and the community – was apt and her presentation was thoroughly convincing. Her brief conversations with servicemen and women who had been Iraq and Kosovo were quite natural. At the end of a difficult year the Queen seemed assured and completely at ease with herself. It was an impressive performance.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Queen's other Christmas gesture – the vulgar illumination of the front of Buckingham Palace with a giant Union Jack wrapped in Christmas paper and covered in snow.

During the past year there has been reason on several occasions to question the quality of the advice that the Queen receives; in this case she should have immediately rejected the idea when it was put to her and suggested to its proposer that early retirement might be appropriate.

This display is part of the Orange Brightening Up London campaign – a commercial initiative which will also see similar manifestations at the National Gallery, the Imperial War Museum, the National Theatre and Tate Britain. All of these buildings, and Buckingham Palace, could benefit from appropriately restrained lighting schemes to enhance their architectural features – and no one would quarrel if something cheap and nasty were devised for Tate Britain, host to the notorious Turner Prize. However, to subject Buckingham Palace to the kind of kitsch and garish Christmas display now increasingly to be observed in Britain's suburban streets is a negation of the special place that the Palace occupies in the national consciousness in times of crisis and celebration.

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