40 of the best royal family Christmas cards through the years


Royal Family Christmas Card 1979
In 1979, the royal family featured this portrait on their Christmas card. PA Images via Getty Images
  • For more than a century, members of the royal family have sent Christmas cards to their subjects.

  • Images used on the cards show historic events or intimate moments between the royals.

  • The photos include a portrait of the Queen aged 16, Princess Diana holding a newborn Prince Harry, and a mesmerized Princess Charlotte watching a children’s entertainer during a party.

  • For their 2018 Christmas card, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shared a never-before-seen photo from their wedding day.

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For more than 100 years, members of the British royal family have been sending Christmas cards to wish their subjects the best for the holiday season.

Photographs selected for the front of these cards have charted the royal family’s new additions and altered relationships. From a black-and-white portrait of King George V to a candid portrait of Prince William with his children, the Christmas cards have also captured the changing face of the royal family through the generations.

Keep scrolling to see the beautiful photographs shared by the royal family to wish their subjects a “Happy Christmas” each year.

1914: King George V and his wife, Mary, sent these stoic portraits to British troops to send their “best wishes for Christmas.”

King George Christmas Card 1914
A Christmas card from the king and queen in 1914. The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images

This postcard was sent to the British troops in 1914, when World War I was underway.

“May God protect you and bring you home safe,” the card reads.

1942: A decade before she would become their queen, Princess Elizabeth sent this card to members of the British Army.

1942 Christmas Card from the Queen
A Christmas card from then Princess Elizabeth. Express/Express/Getty Images

The 16-year-old princess sent this card to the Grenadier Guards regiment of the British Army.

Ten years later, her father, King George VI, passed away and she took over the throne.

1954: The image selected for the royal family’s 1954 Christmas card showed the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Princess Anne.

Queen Christmas Card 1954
The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh and their two children. PA Images via Getty Images

The photo shows them on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

1965: Members of the royal family delight over 1-year-old Prince Edward in this image taken at Windsor Castle.

queen elizabeth
The royal family in 1965. AP

It shows the Queen and Prince Philip with their children, 17-year-old Prince Charles, 15-year-old Princess Anne, 5-year-old Prince Andrew, and 1-year-old Prince Edward.

 

1968: A few years later, the Queen and Prince Philip shared another charming family photo.

1968 Christmas card
Prince Philip and the Queen with their four children. Photo of card by: Cathy Shatka / a*royal*gem

In 1968, the royal family let cameras film their life at home, in a bid to modernize their image. The documentary was broadcast the following year.

1971: Another family portrait was shared on the 1971 holiday greeting.

1971 christmas card
The Queen and her family. Photo of card by: Cathy Shatka / a*royal*gem

At the time of this photograph, Charles was 23 and had graduated from the University of Cambridge a year prior. Anne was 21, Andrew was 11, and Edward was 7.

1976: An image from this photo shoot was used on the card and shows the growing royal family.

Royal family 1976
The Queen and her family. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

This image, which was taken in Bromont, Canada, includes Princess Anne’s husband of three years, Mark Phillips, who stands behind Prince Edward.

1978: The Queen featured her beloved corgis.

1978 Christmas card
The Queen and Prince Philip. Photo of card by: Cathy Shatka / a*royal*gem

The Queen has had more than 30 corgis since 1945.

1979: They selected a more posed family photo for their Christmas card in 1979.

Royal Family Christmas Card 1979
In 1979, the royal family featured this portrait on their Christmas card. PA Images via Getty Images

Taken at Balmoral Castle, this image shows Queen Elizabeth with her husband and their children. Look closely and just behind Prince Edward’s leg, you’ll see Princess Anne’s 2-year-old son, Peter Phillips, in the left of the photo.

1981: On her Christmas card, the Queen celebrated the wedding of her oldest son, Prince Charles, to Diana Spencer.

1981 christmas card
The Queen, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and Prince Philip. Photo of card by: Cathy Shatka / a*royal*gem

The couple married in July 1981, when Charles was 32 and Diana was 20. 

1984: An image from this family photo shoot was used for the Prince and Princess of Wales’ 1984 Christmas card.

princess diana prince charles kids
Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and their children. AP Photo

A newborn Prince Harry and 2-year-old Prince William no doubt charmed the recipients of this Christmas card. 

1987: Three years later, Princess Diana and Prince Charles shared another family portrait.

Charles Diana William Harry Christmas Card
Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and their sons. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

The card was signed by Charles and Diana. By this time, they had been married for six years.

1987: Photographer Yousuf Karsh stands next to this portrait of the Queen and her grandchildren. The image appeared on their 1987 Christmas card.

Yousuf Karsh with his royal family portrait
Yousuf Karsh with his royal family portrait. PA Images via Getty Images

The portrait shows the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with their grandchildren — William, Harry, Peter Phillips, and Zara Phillips — at Balmoral in 1987.

Karsh posed alongside the photo in 1988, during the preview of his 80th birthday exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery in London.

1988: Charles and Diana are pictured with their growing boys.

Charles Diana William Harry Christmas Card
Charles and Diana’s Christmas card, 1988. GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

Prince William was 6, and Prince Harry was 4.

1994: A card shows Prince Charles, who separated from Diana in 1992, with their two sons.

Royal Christmas card
Prince William, Prince Charles, and Prince Harry. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

Diana and Charles separated in 1992 but divorced in 1996.

This card, which was signed by Prince Charles, is among a series of royal Christmas cards going up for auction at Rowley’s auction house in Ely, Cambridgeshire, in the UK on December 12.

1998: A Christmas card sent to an employee of the Queen’s Sandringham Estate shows the monarch with her children and grandchildren.

Royal Christmas cards 1998
The Queen and Prince Philip’s Christmas card, 1998. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

This card, which was sent to an unidentified worker and signed by the Queen and Prince Philip, is also part of the December 12 auction. All money raised will go to the Norfolk Hospice in King’s Lynn, which is just a few miles from the Queen’s Sandringham Estate.

1999: The following year, the Queen sent a card featuring her mother.

Royal family Christmas card 1999
The Queen and Prince Philip’s Christmas card, 1999. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

The card, which is also among those up for auction, shows the Queen Mother, who turned 99 in 1999. She died three years later, before her 102nd birthday.

1999: Prince Charles put his arms around his sons in this photo on the front of his 1999 Christmas card.

Prince William Harry Charles
Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry. John Stillwell – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

The princes’ mother had passed away two years prior.

2000: The following year, the three princes looked smart on the front of their Christmas card.

Royal Christmas card
Prince Harry, Prince Charles, and Prince William. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

This card is also among those up for auction this month. The cards are expected to fetch upto £200 each, or approximately $265.

“We anticipate a lot of interest in these and they are in excellent condition, as if they have just been pulled from the envelope,” said Roddy Lloyd, managing director of the saleroom at Rowley’s auction house.

2003: Prince Charles’ card from 2003 shows a sweet moment with his sons.

Royal Christmas card
Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Charles. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

Prince William was 21, while Prince Harry was 19.

2005: Prince Charles and his new wife, Camilla, shared this image from their wedding day for their Christmas card.

Prince Charles and Camilla 2005 Christmas Card
The photo was taken at the couple’s April wedding. HUGO BURNAND/AFP via Getty Images

As well as Prince William and Prince Harry, the photo shows Camilla’s children, Laura and Tom Parker Bowles. This was the first time Camilla had appeared on Charles’ Christmas card, despite their years-long relationship.

2006: The Queen and her husband shared a more traditional photo.

2006 Christmas card
The Queen and Prince Philip. Photo of card by: Cathy Shatka / a*royal*gem

The Queen turned 80 in 2006, and she celebrated with a number of public and private events at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. The Queen’s actual birthday is April 21, but her “official” birthday is the second Saturday in June, when the weather is likely to be better for celebrations.

2007: The Queen and her husband shared two photos on their Christmas card this year. First, a photo of the couple with their grandchildren.

Royal family Christmas cards
The Queen, Prince Philip, and their grandchildren. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

Prince Harry, Prince William, and Peter Phillips (the son of Princess Anne) are seen in the back row. At the front, from left to right, stand Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II, Lady Louise Windsor, and Zara Phillips.

2007: On the other side of the card, the Queen and Prince Philip were pictured with their children and their spouses.

Royal family Christmas cards
The Queen, Prince Philip, their children, and their children’s spouses in 2007. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

As well as the Queen’s children, the card shows Charles’ wife, Camilla Parker-Bowles, Anne’s husband, Timothy Laurence, and Edward’s wife, Sophie Wessex. This card is also part of Rowley’s December 2020 auction.

2012: Prince Charles and Camilla’s holiday card featured a photograph taken during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Prince Charles and Camilla 2012 Christmas Card
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Lewis Whyld / Clarence House – WPA Pool/Getty Images

The celebrations marked the 60th anniversary of the accession of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II.

2012: The Duke of Edinburgh is seen presenting his wife with a trophy after her horse won the Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot in June 2012.

Royal Christmas cards
Prince Philip and the Queen. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

Her horse, Estimate, won easily.

2013: Prince Charles and his wife share a joke in this photo on this Christmas card.

Prince Charles and Camilla Christmas Card 2013
Prince Charles and Camilla at Royal Ascot. John Stillwell – WPA Pool / Getty Images

The photo shows the couple in the Royal Box during the races at Royal Ascot, one of Britain’s best known racecourses, on June 19, 2013.

2014: The following year, they shared a similarly happy photograph.

Prince Charles and Camilla Christmas Card 2014
Prince Charles and Camilla, pictured on their 2014 Christmas card. WPA Pool / Getty Images

In the photo, they are seen laughing during the Invictus Games Opening Ceremony in London on September 10, 2014.

The Invictus Games were launched that year by Prince Charles’ son, Prince Harry.

2015: Prince Charles and Camilla look at ease in this image taken in Scotland during their summer vacation.

Prince Charles and Camilla Christmas Card 2015
Prince Charles and Camilla. WPA Pool / Getty Images

The photo, which was released a week before Christmas, was taken on a private estate in August by a friend, according to Clarence House.

2015: Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, looked similarly content in their family portrait.

Kate and William Christmas card 2015
Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Chris Jelf, Kensington Palace

The portrait was taken at Kensington Palace. It shows 2-year-old George giggling alongside his little sister, Charlotte, who was 5 months old at the time the photo was taken.

2016: Prince Charles and Camilla celebrated their tour of Croatia with their 2016 holiday card.

Prince Charles and Camilla Christmas Card
Prince Charles and Camilla in Tvrda, Croatia. Getty Images via Clarence House

During the trip, they met performers wearing traditional dress in Tvrda.

2016: The Queen’s Christmas card showed her 90th birthday celebrations.

Royal Christmas cards
The Queen and Prince Philip. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

A copy of this card is among those up for auction in the UK — in total, there is a series of cards from the Queen from 1998 until 2018.

2016: Princess Charlotte and Prince George are mesmerized by an entertainer during the family’s tour of Canada.

William Kate Christmas holiday card
The family is pictured at a children’s party for military families in Victoria, Canada, in September 2016. Chris Jackson – Pool/Getty Images

This sweet family moment graced the front of their Christmas thank-you cards, which were received in January 2017.

2017: The Queen’s card showed her feeding a banana to an elephant named Donna.

Royal Christmas cards
The Queen and Prince Philip. Courtesy Rowley Fine Art Auctioneers & Valuers

The photo was taken during the royal couple’s trip to Whipsnade Zoo, where the Queen opened a new Centre for Elephant Care in April 2017.

2017: The Duke and Duchess of Cornwall shared a photo from Camilla’s private 70th birthday party.

Prince Charles and Camilla Christmas card
A card from Prince Charles and Camilla hangs in a tree at Clarence House. WPA Pool/Getty Images

The celebrations were held in Highgrove House, their private family residence in Gloucestershire, in July 2017.

2017: William and Kate also shared a more formal portrait.

Prince William Kate Christmas Card 2017
Prince William, Duchess Catherine, Prince George, and Princess Charlotte. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

The photograph shows the family at Kensington Palace. It was taken by Getty photographer Chris Jackson, who takes many of the personal photos released by the royal family.

2018: Prince Charles and Camilla featured another sweet photo on their Christmas card.

Prince Charles and Camilla 2018 Christmas Card
HUGO BURNAND/AFP via Getty Images

The photo was taken during the summer in the garden of Clarence House.

2018: Prince Louis made his first Christmas card appearance in this relaxed family portrait.

Prince William and Kate Christmas Card 2018
Prince William, Kate Middleton, Louis, Charlotte, and George. Matt Porteous/Kensington Palaca

This relaxed family portrait was taken at Anmer Hall. The property, which is on the royal family’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk, was given to the couple as a wedding gift.

Prince Louis was born in April 2018. His big brother is 5 in this photo, while his big sister is 3.

2018: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle shared this elegant black-and-white photo on their Christmas card.

meghan harry official christmas cards
Prince Harry shares a tender moment with his new wife, Meghan Markle, on their wedding day. Chris Allerton/PA

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose a photo from their wedding night for the front of their holiday card. It shows them watching fireworks on the grounds of Frogmore House, where their evening reception was held in May 2018.

 

2019: Prince Charles and Camilla celebrated their historic trip to Cuba.

Prince Charles and Camilla Christmas Card 2019
Charles and Camilla’s 2019 card. Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images

They became the first British royals to ever visit Cuba in March 2019. In the photo, they’re driving a vintage MG TD at the British Classic Car event in Havana.

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