It’s that time of year again. Yes, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have released the new photograph they will use for their 2021 Christmas cards. Cue inevitable social media excitement and a frenzy among Royal watchers as they study it for clues about the state of the monarchy.
The wholesome family portrait, taken by Royal snapper Matt Porteous, sees the couple posing with their children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis in Jordan earlier this year. Their Royal Highnesses posted the picture on their social media accounts this afternoon, with the caption: “Delighted to share a new image of the family, which features on this year’s Christmas card”.
The message was signed off with a Christmas tree icon, which frankly seems a little ‘non-U’. But enough about emoji etiquette and back to the photo, which is enough to get the mind racing.
Here are half a dozen questions that you definitely probably thought when you first saw it…
1. What is that giant golden ball?
I hate to start on an innuendo-adjacent note but seriously, what is William is sitting on? It’s a burnished gold sphere with studded details, giving it the air of a Roman gladiator’s armour or a Ballon d’Or-style football trophy. Any moment now, Messi and Ronaldo will probably start squabbling over it.
Is it a bauble off the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree? An ostentatiously bling Swiss exercise ball? Some sort of sly reference to Wills’ mate, David ‘Goldenballs’ Beckham? Or even a metaphorical boast about how he’s fathered three children while his brother Harry is lagging behind with a mere two? The parenting equivalent of chanting “Three-two to the Eng-er-land!” at a football match.
It doesn’t even look terribly comfortable to sit on. Any minute, our future King could clatter to the ground while a golden orb rolls away, looking guilty.
2. Isn’t Kate’s hair lovely?
It’s not the most original observation that the Duchess of Cambridge gives good hair but it’s particularly impressive in this pic. Her glossy chestnut locks cascade down her shoulders in catwalk-ready curls, lending a pleasingly pre-Raphaelite vibe to her usual bouncy blow dry.
Expect a veritable avalanche of ‘Revealed! How to get Kate’s Christmas card hair’ articles any minute now. Even mermaids will probably be swimming ashore to read them and pick up some tips.
3. Is Louis as much of a rascal as he looks?
Yes, George is a handsome wee chap with a charming smile who works the camera like a pro. Sure, Charlotte is a pretty, poised young lady who’s a dead ringer for the Queen. But it’s Louis who catches the eye here.
There’s a twinkle in the three-year-old’s steely gaze that hints at all manner of adorable antics. He’s reminiscent of his much-missed great-grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, and we know how naughty he was.
Shortly after this photograph was taken, one imagines the cheeky tyke was off scrumping King Abdullah II’s apples or playing knock-down ginger on Raghadan Palace’s front door.
4. Why are there so many knees?
I mean, there’s nothing wrong with knees generally. They’re useful things, invaluable for activities such as praying, resting newspapers on, drawing funny faces on and generally bending one’s legs. There’s nothing wrong with the Cambridges’ knees, either. They’re textbook specimens of the leg-joint genre.
But do we really need this many knees on a Christmas card? You don’t see Santa Claus posing in hotpants. Snowmen don’t have knees at all. Christmas cards are normally a knee-free zone but six of the bony blighters are visible here.
Could it be some sort of subliminal message about Meghan? After all, ‘Knees like Megan’ is a popular TikTok meme, referring to rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s extraordinary ability to slowly squat, twerk and wiggle while busting a rhyme. OK, it’s a different Megan with a different spelling but it’s a theory. Sort of.
5. Are those… camel hump seats?
One hump or two, darling? The unusual seating theme is continued with Charlotte and George’s quirky triangular chairs. They look suspiciously like the sort of Egyptian-style stools which might be used to saddle up an ungulate beast of burden. Hold onto that pommel and ride, princelings.
This surely provided a teachable moment, enabling their parents to explain the difference between Bactrians and Dromedaries. Princess Charlotte is even sitting side-saddle on hers, which is a nice touch. She’ll go far, that girl.
If that rug is real fur, though, there could be an ethical backlash. A woolly mammoth or Wookie gave up its pelt, just so these selfish snowflakes can sit in cosy-bottomed comfort. Pass me that petition.
6. Is it supposed to remind us of the Flintstones?
Well, Fred’s cartoon clan and their next-door neighbours, the Rubbles, are the other famous families who lounge around in rocky caves.
Sure, theirs are in the Stone Age suburban town of Bedrock rather than a Hashemite Kingdom in Western Asia but the aesthetics are much the same. Yabba dabba Duke!
7. Did they put it out to distract from William’s father’s attempt at Christmas cheer?
On the same afternoon, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall released their own Christmas card image and it’s… a bit weird. Sure, the masks make it quintessentially 2021. But otherwise, it’s a baffling choice.
Taken by Sam Hussein at Royal Ascot this summer, it’s formally attired and not remotely festive. The lack of eye contact between the couple makes it seem like Charles is fussing, rather than being sweetly attentive.
Presumably someone at Clarence House thought it was an intimate loving gesture caught in a candid moment, the contemporary equivalent of lovingly tucking your spouse’s hair behind their ear. But Camilla looks stressed rather than touched. With her handbag clutched awkwardly by her shoulder, it doesn’t particularly feel like a moment she’d want immortalised. It looks like an outtake rather than the main event.
Yes, their masks are neatly co-ordinated with their outfits but it’s a bit “Get off, I can do it myself!” At a glance, the foliage behind Camilla also looks like it’s part of her hat. Add some fruit and dance a samba on Strictly for full Carmen Miranda effect.