The Queen's very own English, as spoken in her public utterings, is moving gradually from the cut glass of St James's to the glottally-stopped banks of the Thames estuary, according to academics.
A team of modern-day Professor Higginses have analysed the Queen's Christmas broadcasts and found that over the past half century her vowel sounds have subtly shifted in the direction of "estuary", the term applied to cockneyfied middle-class accents.
According to the researchers, the "happay" Christmas favoured by the Queen in 1952 has become "happee", "dutay" is now "dutee", and one's "hame" is now our "home". Her pronunciation of "had" no longer rhymes with "head".
She has not, however, yet embraced the hallmarks of estuary - dropped aitches, glottal stop, and the soft "L" in words like bill, milk and wall.
Jonathan Harrington, who holds the chair of phonetics at Munich University and whose study appears in the Journal of Phonetics this week, said: "The Queen has changed her accent in the light of the changes that are taking place in the wider community.
"The Queen's accent has not become cockneyfied but it has shifted subtly towards an accent that is more typically spoken in the wider community.
"The changes also reflect the changing class structure over the last 50 years. In the 1950s, there was a much sharper distinction between the classes as well as accents that typified them. Since then, the class boundaries have become more blurred, and so have the accents. Fifty years ago, the idea that Queen's English could be influenced by cockney would have been unthinkable."
The researchers analysed all the broadcasts from 1952, looking for changes in vowel sounds in the middle and at the end of words.
Christmas 1952: Cut-glass pronunciation for the Queen's first Christmas broadcast
"As he [King George VI] used to do, I em speaking to you from my own hame, where I em spending Christmas with my femly"
Christmas 1962: Still very much received pronunciation (RP) 10 years later
Christmas 1977: Subtle hints that the Queen's vowels are changing
Christmas 2005: Hints of estuary English, say researchers - the word "happay" has changed to "happee"Reuse content