The Queen's Christmas message reversed its downward ratings trend, attracting 600,000 more viewers this year.
Provisional figures showed that it was among the most popular shows on Christmas Day, exceeded only by a comedy show, soap operas and the news.
The death of the Queen Mother and of Princess Margaret, the golden jubilee celebrations and Paul Burrell's collapsed theft trial attracted huge public attention in 2002 and dominated headlines.
Yesterday, 9.3 million viewers watched the Queen's 10-minute broadcast – the first to have been given a trailer – in which she touched on some of the events which affected her family. Although ratings were nowhere near the 1993 pinnacle of 21 million viewers – the year after her "annus horribilis" message – they did see a reversal in fortunes. The audience was shared between the BBC and ITV1, which both broadcast the speech, with the former attracting 6.5 million viewers.
Meanwhile, Only Fools And Horses proved its enduring appeal. It was again the most popular Christmas show, attracting 16.3 million viewers.
The comedy attracted 63 per cent of viewers for the 90-minute special, screened at 9.40pm on BBC1. The final show in the series featured Del Boy and Rodney, played by David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst, heading to France to attend a memorial service in place of their uncle Albert and picking up a supposed illegal immigrant on their return.
Lorraine Heggessey, controller of the BBC, said she was pleased with the comedy'sratings. "Del Boy and Rodney are national treasures and it's no surprise that Fools And Horses remains the UK's most popular Christmas treat. The script and performances were terrific and I'm thrilled that so many people decided to tune in and find out what happened next," she said.
EastEnders, another BBC show, also performed strongly. More than 16 million viewers watched Jamie Mitchell's death in the evening, while the episode screened in the afternoon was the fourth most popular Christmas show.
ITV's Coronation Street was in third place with Emmerdale ranked sixth. An ITV spokeswoman said: "Both attracted bigger audiences than last year. It's great to see them finishing the year so strongly and there's much more for viewers to look forward to next year."
The animated comedy, Chicken Run, by the creator of Wallace and Gromit, Nick Park, attracted 9.1 million viewers for BBC1. French & Saunders and My Family– both shown on BBC1 – came ninth and tenth respectively.