- For more than a century, members of the royal family have sent Christmas cards to their subjects.
- Photographs selected for the front of the cards show the growing family and its changing relationships as the years go by.
- 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.
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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.”
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
The Queen has had more than 30 corgis since 1945.
1979: They selected a more posed family photo for their Christmas card in 1979.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
- GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images
Prince William was 6, and Prince Harry was 4.
1999: Prince Charles put his arms around his sons in this photo on the front of his 1999 Christmas card.
The princes’ mother had passed away two years prior.
2005: Prince Charles and his new wife, Camilla, shared this image from their wedding day for their Christmas card.
- 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.
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.
2012: Prince Charles and Camilla’s holiday card featured a photograph taken during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The celebrations marked the 60th anniversary of the accession of Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
2013: Prince Charles and his wife share a joke in this photo on this Christmas card.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- Getty Images via Clarence House
During the trip, they met performers wearing traditional dress in Tvrda.
2016: Princess Charlotte and Prince George are mesmerized by an entertainer during the family’s tour of Canada.
- 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 Duke and Duchess of Cornwall shared a photo from Camilla’s private 70th birthday party.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.