The best and worst royal Christmas cards over the years

Holiday cards are an annual tradition enjoyed by friends and family each Christmas season. Throughout the years, the British royal family has made it their own tradition to send out a Christmas card every year – whether it’s featuring their children or a moment taken during a memorable state visit.

This year, the Prince and Princess of Wales released their 2023 Christmas card, a black and white family portrait showcasing their grown-up children: Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, eight, and Prince Louis, five. Meanwhile, King Charles III and Queen Camilla opted for a photograph taken during their coronation in May as their Christmas Card this year.

As for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, they decided to send out a virtual card that highlights the charitable work they’ve done through their Archewell Foundation.

While you can never go wrong with a sweet family portrait, the royal family has delivered a handful of not-so-memorable Christmas cards from time to time. In honour of the festive spirit, here are some of the best and worst royal Christmas cards over the years.

2023: The Prince and Princess of Wales pose for black and white portrait

The Prince and Princess of Wales and their children for 2023 Christmas card

(Josh Shinner/Kensington Palace/PA)

For this year’s Christmas card, Prince William and Kate Middleton looked like something out of a fashion magazine with their laid-back family portrait. The royal couple are seen standing front and center while their eldest son, George, stands at his mother’s side. Meanwhile, William rests his hand on Louis’ shoulder as Charlotte sits in a chair with her legs crossed.

It marked one of the best Christmas cards from the royal family, as it showcases the modernity of the new, up-and-coming royal family.

2023: King Charles III and Queen Camilla choose photograph from their coronation

King Charles III and Queen Camilla’s 2023 Christmas card

(Buckingham Palace/Hugo Burnand/PA/PA Wire)

King Charles III and Queen Camilla fittingly chose a photograph from their coronation this past May as their 2023 Christmas card. The image showed the couple standing side by side in their full regalia, each wearing a crown on their head. “Wishing you a very happy Christmas and New Year,” the card reads.

2023: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex send virtual Christmas card

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex chose a shot of them smiling and clapping at this year’s Invictus Games in Germany (Jordan Petitt/PA)

(PA Wire)

As for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, they sent out an email with their virtual Christmas cards on behalf of their Archewell organisation. “We wish you a very happy holiday season. Thanks for all the support in 2023!” the card reads.

The e-holiday card also featured a link to their charities annual impact report, including a video of all of their major projects from the last year. For the photo on the card itself, Meghan and Harry chose a photo of the two of them from the closing ceremony of the 2023 Invictus Games, which took place in Düsseldorf, Germany, back in September.

Compared to Christmas cards of years past, Harry and Meghan’s attemped to distract from an otherwise eventful year for the couple.

2022: Prince William and Kate Middleton look casual with their children

Last year, William and Kate chose a photograph of their family walking hand-in-hand through the Norfolk countryside as their Christmas card. The royals could be seen strolling along a path, with William holding George’s hand at one end, while Kate holds Louis’ hand on the other end, with Charlotte in the middle holding hands with her brothers.

The image was taken by royal family photographer Matt Porteous.

2022: Harry and Meghan highlight Archewell Foundation once again

Harry and Meghan shared their Christmas card just one day after final instalment of their explosive documentary arrived on Netflix

(Archewell Foundation)

Just days after the release of their explosive Netflix docuseries, Harry & Meghan, the couple redirected attention to their Archewell Foundation with their Christmas card. “Wishing you a joyful holiday season,” the card read, alongside a photo of the couple at the Robert F Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award Gala in New York City.

“From our family to yours, and on behalf of our teams at Archewell Foundation, Archewell Audio, and Archewell Productions, we wish you health, peace and a Happy New Year.

“Best wishes, Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex,” the sign-off reads.

2022: Camilla smiles at Charles in Christmas card

The 2022 Christmas card of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort in front of a Christmas tree in Clarence House, on December 11, 2022

(Buckingham Palace via Getty Imag)

For Charles’ first Christmas card since he became King after the passing of the late Queen Elizabeth II, he and Camilla chose a photo taken by award-winning photographer Sam Hussein. It showed the royal couple smiling at the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering in September that year.

The monarch is pictured from a side profile, dressed in a tweed suit with a red, green and beige tie, while Camilla is wearing a green suit and matching hat with a pheasant motif, with pearl earrings. The photo was taken on 3 September when Charles was still the Prince of Wales. Just days later, the Queen died on 8 September.

2021: William and Kate use photo taken during trip to Jordan for Christmas card

William and Kate use photo taken during trip to Jordan for 2021 Christmas card

(PA Media)

The then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge opted to use a photo from their family trip to Jordan as their Christmas card. In the photograph, William sits beside Kate while seated on a gold pouffe with the couple resting their hands on each other’s knees. George and Charlotte are seated next to their parents on red stools, while Louis sits cross-legged on the floor on what appears to be a sheepskin rug.

The image marked a departure from Christmas cards of previous years.

2021: Harry and Meghan share a photo of their daugher Princess Lilibet for Christmas card

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle share 2021 Christmas card

(Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/PA)

For the first time ever, Harry and Meghan shared with the public a photo of their daughter – Lilibet “Lili” Diana – who was born in June 2021. The photograph, taken by Alexi Lubomirski, showed the family of four looking casual outside their new home in Santa Barbara, California – where they relocated after stepping down as senior members of the royal family in 2020.

In the portrait, Harry, Meghan, and Archie are all pictured wearing jeans. Harry is seen holding the couple’s two-year-old son Archie on his lap while Meghan is raising six-month-old Lilibet in the air.

“Happy Holidays. 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,” the couple wrote. “As we look forward to 2022, we have made donations on your behalf to several organisations that honour and protect families – from those being relocated from Afghanistan, to American families in need of paid parental leave.”

“Wishing you a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year, from our family to yours.”

While fans were excited to catch a glimpse at their daughter Lilibet, the duke and duchess have not featured their two children on a Christmas card since.

2020: William and Kate’s Christmas card leaked by fans

Royal family photo leaked in 2020 ahead of annual Christmas card

(Kensington Palace via Getty Imag)

In 2020, William and Kate released their official Christmas card four days after the photograph was leaked by a fan account on Instagram. The photo, which was taken in the autumn by Matt Porteous, showed William and Kate with their three children at their home in Norfolk, Anmer Hall.

The family is pictured looking relaxed outdoors, sitting on hay bales with a pile of wood behind them. George is seen wearing a brown zip-up fleece, while Louis wears a navy blue jumper over a collared shirt. Meanwhile, Charlotte is pictured in a green Christmas jumper and leggings.

William wears blue jeans, a blue collared shirt, and a dark green roundneck jumper, while Kate is wearing a white collared shirt and a deep crimson jumper over grey skinny jeans.

2020: Sussexes share new family photo from California on Christmas card

In honour of their first Christmas in the United States and Harry’s first holiday since stepping down from the royal family, the couple gave fans a glimpse at their new life in California. The Christmas card has the appearance of a painting, but was based on a photograph taken by Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, at their home.

In the photograph, Harry and Meghan are gathered around a play house with their 19-month-old son Archie and their two dogs. A miniature Christmas tree is set in front of the play house, decorated with ornaments picked out by Archie.

“The original photo of the family was taken at their home earlier this month by the duchess’s mother,” said a spokesperson for the Sussexes. “The small Christmas tree, including the homemade ornaments and other decorations, were selected by Archie, and the tree will be replanted after the holidays.”

Inside the card, the message read: “This year we, as a family, have made donations to several charities with you in mind.

”From a local California organisation that helps families transition out of homelessness, to two of our UK patronages: one that supports animal and community welfare, and the other, a memorial fund for a cherished friend that helps to educate children and fight poverty in Uganda, we have honoured their work on behalf of all of us.“

2019: Charles and Camilla use photo taken in Cuba for Christmas card

The 2019 Christmas card of Prince Charles and Camilla featuring a photograph of the royal couple driving a vintage MG TD whilst on tour in Cuba

(Getty Images)

Prince Charles and Camilla’s 2019 Christmas card showed the royal couple during their trip to Cuba in March that year. The husband and wife are picturing driving in a vintage MG car – perhaps the coolest royal family Christmas card ever.

2019: Harry and Meghan have seven-month-old Archie front and centre

To mark their first Christmas as parents, the duke and duchess shared a photo of seven-month-old Archie. The infant is seen staring down the camera lens, while his parents laughing behind him as a Christmas tree sits in the background. The photo was released on X – formerly known as Twitter – by the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust, a charity that supports young people in impoverished areas.

“Just sharing the sweetest Christmas Card from our president and vice-President, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Very Merry Christmas, everyone!” the caption reads.

2018: William and Kate’s Christmas card features eight-month-old Louis

William and Kate's 2018 Christmas card features the whole family 

(Kensington Palace)

Everyone’s favourite member of the royal family, Prince Louis, made his Christmas card debut in 2018.

The family portrait, taken by Matt Porteous, featured William and Kate’s youngest child at nearly nine months old. Kate is seen cradling baby Louis as she rests against a tree trunk at their Anmer Hall home in Norfolk.

A three-year-old Charlotte can be seen standing on the trunk with her arms around her parents’ shoulders, while five-year-old George playfully holds on to his father as he stands one-legged in wellies on the trunk.

2018: Charles and Camilla gaze at each other on a bench

The photograph for Prince Charles and Camilla's 2018 Christmas card was taken by Hugo Burnand

(PA)

In Charles and Camilla’s card, the royal couple are seen gazing lovingly at each other while sitting on a bench. Camilla is wearing a cream and crape dress by Fiona Clare, while Charles is wearing an Anderson and Sheppard suit, shoes by Crockett and Jones, and a Turnbull and Asser shirt.

The photograph was taken by Hugo Burnand, who also took the wedding pictures of Charles and Camilla’s big day in 2005.

2018: Harry and Meghan share unseen photograph from wedding

The Sussexes use previously unseen photo from their wedding day as their 2018 Christmas card

(Kensington Palace)

For their first Christmas as husband and wife, Harry and Meghan shared an unseen image from their May 2018 wedding. The newlyweds are captured with their arms wrapped around each other’s waists on their wedding night.

It was taken by photographer Chris Allerton during their evening wedding reception, as fireworks erupted in the grounds of Frogmore House – the 17th century royal residence in Windsor near Frogmore Cottage, where Harry and Meghan lived until their departure from the royal family in 2020.

2016: Charles and Camilla release a more unusual Christmas card

Prince Charles and Camilla 2016 Christmas card

(Getty Images via Clarence House)

Charles and Camilla released a rather unusual Christmas card in 2016, far different from holiday cards of years past. It pictured the then-Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall grinning as they were surrounded by a troupe of Croatian dancers wearing traditional national dress.

The photograph was taken during their tour of Croatia and the western Balkans earlier that year, when the Croatian Cultural Artistic Society performed a dance for the pair. “Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and New Year,” the card reads, as per usual.

2015: Charles and Camilla are all smiles

Charles and Camilla’s 2015 Christmas card

(Getty Images)

The royal couple were all smiles for their 2015 Christmas card. In the photo, Charles and Camilla looked casual during their summer vacation in Scotland. According to Clarence House, the image was taken by a friend on a private estate in August that year.

2005: Royal couple choose photograph from April 2005 wedding as Christmas card

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall choose photograph taken by Hugo Burnand at their April 2005 wedding as their Christmas card

(PA)

To celebrate their nuptials, newlyweds Charles and Camilla used a photograph from their April wedding as their annual Christmas card. The image showed the future King and Queen Consort posing with their children. William and Harry stood on their father’s left side, while Tom Parker Bowles and Laura Lopes on their mother’s right side.

While the image appeared to capture a happy occasion, the Christmas card may hold new meaning after Harry claimed in his 2023 memoir, Spare, that he and his brother asked their father not to marry Camilla.

1999: Charles poses with sons for Christmas card two years after Diana’s death

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

(PA)

Two years after the untimely passing of William and Harry’s mother, the late Princess of Wales, Charles and his sons put on a united front for their 1999 Christmas card. In the annual holiday card, Charles is seen sitting between his teenage sons, with the countryside in the background.

1993: Diana releases her own Christmas card with William and Harry

A 1993 Christmas card sent from Diana featuring a photograph of the Princess with Princes William and Harry

(Shutterstock)

Prince Charles and Princess Diana separated in 1992 after 11 years of marriage. For her 1993 Christmas card, Diana posed solo alongside her young sons. The chic photograph pictured Diana wearing a long-sleeve blouse with popped collar, black trousers, and a large gold belt buckle.

William posed facing toward the camera, as a young Harry stared directly up at his mother.

1987: Princess Diana and Prince Charles seen as family of four

Family portrait of Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and their sons William and Harry taken for their 1987 Christmas Card

(AFP via Getty Images)

Before their divorce in 1996, Charles and Diana posed as a family of four for their 1987 Christmas card. In the photo, a giggling William rested his arm on his father’s leg and his head in his hand. Charles held up the five-year-old, while Diana sat three-year-old Harry at her side.

1982: William’s first Christmas

Royal Christmas card bearing a full-color family photograph of Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and the infant Prince William from 1982

(PA)

To celebrate the first Christmas of the future King, Diana and Charles featured an infant William on their 1982 Christmas card. The new parents were seen staring directly at the camera, as they propped up their newborn son.

1969: A royal family affair

Queen Elizabeth II, the Prince of Wales, Prince Edward, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and the Duke of Edinburgh on board the Royal Yacht Britannia during a visit to Norway. It is the photograph used on the Queen's personal Christmas card.

(PA)

During the royal family’s visit to Norway on the Royal Yacht Britannia, the late Queen Elizabeth II gathered her husband – Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh – and her four children to take a family photograph. In 1969, the portrait was used for the Queen’s personal Christmas card.

The Queen is seen smiling at her husband, while each of her children – Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward – grin at the camera.