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For decades, the royal Christmas card has been a holiday tradition in the British royal family. The cards, which date back before Queen Elizabeth II’s childhood, have been around for more than 100 years, and as the royal family grows (2019 welcomed baby Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor), their Christmas notes only become more and more festive.
It’s reported that Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip send 750 to 800 Christmas cards each year. Philip also reportedly sends another 200 cards to various organizations the royal family is close to. And don’t expect each card to have a generic message either. According to Reader’s Digest, the Queen starts signing her cards in the summer, so she can have them ready by the time the holidays roll around. As for what’s on each message, Reader’s Digest reports that Queen Elizabeth II has a different moniker depending on the recipient of the Christmas card. Politicians and heads of state will receive cards signed with “Elizabeth R” (the R stands for “Regina,” the Latin word for “queen”), while friends will get notes signed with Elizabeth. The Queen’s cousins will receive mailers with her nickname, “Lilibet.”
If that isn’t reason enough to believe that the British royal family is serious about their holidays, we don’t know what is. See the evolution of the royal family Christmas card, from the early 1900s to the Meghan Markle era, ahead.
1914 – King George V & Queen Mary
One of the first royal Christmas cards was in 1914. The post featured King George V and Queen Mary (Queen Elizabeth II’s grandparents) with a handwritten message about troops in the United Kingdom during the first year of World War I.
1978 – Prince Charles / Princess Anne & Mark Phillips
Two royal families sent separate Christmas cards in 1978. One was Prince Charles (Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son), who sent a photo of him with a dog and the message, “With all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.” The other was Princess Anne (Queen Elizabeth II’s daughter) and Mark Phillips who sent a photo of their children, Peter and Zara, with the message, “With all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.”
1982 – Princess Diana & Prince Charles
Princess Diana and Prince Charles sent their first family Christmas card in 1982. The post included a photo of the couple with their newborn son, Prince William. They wrote, “With all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.”
1985 – Princess Diana & Prince Charles
After Prince Harry’s birthday in 1984, Princess Diana and Prince Charles sent this Christmas card in 1985, which showed the family outside as the two young princes rode a pony. Prince Charles stood by in a kilt, while Princess Di watched her sons lovingly. The couple included the same message as previous years: “With all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.”
1986 – Princess Diana & Prince Charles
Now a little older, Prince Harry and Prince William sat and stood in Prince Charles’ lap for this Christmas card in 1986. The post also included Princess Diana next to her then-husband, with a cute dog in her lap.
1987 – Princess Diana & Prince Charles
Prince Harry and Prince William wore matching outfits for this Christmas card in 1987. The brothers stood on a fence as their mom posed behind them. Their dad, Prince Charles, also stood next to them with his hands crossed. The family switched up their message this year. They wrote, “Wishing you a very happy Christmas and New Year.”
1990 – Princess Diana & Prince Charles
In 1990, six years before Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ divorce, the family sent this Christmas card with Prince Harry and Prince William in matching red sweaters and gray slacks. The brothers posed at the palace, with their parents behind them.
2001 – Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Prince Edward, Queen Elizabeth II’s second son, sent this Christmas card in 2001 with his wife, Sophie, Countess of Wessex. They wrote, “Wishing you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.” The card was sent two year before the couple welcomed their first child, daughter Lady Louise Windsor.
2005 – Prince Charles & Camila Parker Bowles
After his wedding to Camila Parker Bowles in April 2005, Prince Charles sent their wedding picture as the couple’s holiday card for that year. The photo featured the couple on their happy day as they stood arm in arm. On Prince Charles’ side were his sons Prince William and Prince Harry (who looked away from the camera.) With Camila were her children, Tom and Laura Parker Bowles.
2016 – Prince Charles & Camila Parker Bowles
Prince Charles and Camila sent a card as married couple in 2016. The photo for the card was taken on their royal tour of Croatia. The couple met local performers in traditional dresses on their visit to Tvrda, an old town in the city of Osijek.
2017 – Prince Charles & Camila Parker Bowles
Prince Charles and Camila kept it simple for their 2017 Christmas card. The couple’s photo came from the Duchess of Cornwall’s 70th birthday party in the Orchard Room of their Highgrove House.
2017 – Prince William & Kate Middleton
The family is all here! One of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first family Christmas cards was in 2017. The photo featured the couple as they stood behind their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who were dressed to match their parents. The family posed in Kensington Palace for the shot.
2018 – Prince Charles & Camila Parker Bowles
For 2018, Prince Charles and Camila sent this romantic photo of them sitting on a bench. The photo was put on the Christmas tree in Clarence House.
2018 – Prince William & Kate Middleton
This now-iconic family photo was Kate and William’s Christmas card in 2018. The photo featured the family as they posed outside Anmer Hall in Norfolk, United Kingdom. Dressed casually, Kate and William leaned against a tree as their children played behind them. Prince George balanced on one leg, Princess Charlotte sandwiched herself between her parents and Prince Louis sat comfortably in his mom’s arms.
2019 – Prince William & Kate Middleton
Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty shared this Christmas card she received from Prince William and Kate Middleton on Twitter. The post featured the couple with their three children dressed in different shades of blue. Prince William sat on a vehicle with his youngest son, Prince Louis, in his lap. By his side are his other two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who posed for the camera. On his other side is Kate who stuns in a floral blue dress.
2019 – Prince Harry & Meghan Markle
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released the following post as their Christmas card for 2019. The candid photo showed the parents laughing in the background as their son, Archie, crawled toward the camera. The couple dressed casual, with Meghan in a sweater and Harry in a shirt with his sleeves rolled up, as they posed in front of a Christmas tree. The black-and-white photo included sparkles, as well as the simple message: Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.”
2020 – Prince William & Kate Middleton
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s 2020 Christmas card saw them dressed in casual sweaters and jeans with their three kids: Prince Louis, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. The family sat on a bale of hay in front of stacks of logs as they smiled for the camera. “The Duke and Duchess are delighted to share a new image of their family, which features on their Christmas card this year🎄,” the couple wrote on Instagram.
2020 – Meghan Markle & Prince Harry
The Animal nonprofit Mayhew tweeted Meghan and Harry’s 2020 Christmas Card, which saw the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with their son, Archie. The photo saw the family of three in a small outhouse decorated with red bows and Christmas trees with their two dogs. “We’re thrilled to receive wonderful Christmas wishes from our Patron, The Duchess of Sussex, who also made a personal donation, helping dogs, cats and our community. Purple heart From all of us at Mayhew, thank you and Merry Christmas,” Mayhew tweeted.
2021 – Prince William & Kate Middleton
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge kept the family tradition going with their 2021 Christmas card. For their card, the couple were joined by their kids Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, aged 8, 6 and 3, respectively, at the time the photo was snapped. According to Kensington Palace, the family portrait was snapped during a private family vacation to Jordan earlier that year.
“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are pleased to share a new photograph of their family,” the palace’s statement read. “The photograph, which features on Their Royal Highnesses’ Christmas card this year, shows The Duke and Duchess with their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis in Jordan earlier this year.”
2021 – Meghan Markle & Prince Harry
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex shared their first photo of their daughter Lilibet, who was born on June 6, 2021, for their 2021 Christmas card. The card saw Harry and Meghan dressed in jeans and csual clothes as they sat outside with their two children: Lilibet, 6 months, and Archie, 2. In the photo, Meghan could be seen holding Lilibet up as Harry and Archie, who sat on his father’s knee, could be seen smiling at them.
The card was taken by photographer Alexi Lubomirski at the couple’s home in Santa Barbara, California. (Lubomirski also photographed Harry and Meghan’s 2018 wedding.) “Happy holidays,” the card reads. “This year, 2021, we welcomed our daughter, Lilibet, to the world. Archie made us a ‘Mama’ and a ‘Papa’, and Lili made us a family. As we look forward to 2022, we have made donations on your behalf to several organizations that honor and protect families – from those being relocated from Afghanistan, to American families in need of paid parental leave.” The card was first shared by Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster relief organization serving vulnerable communities.—