What do you hope for when you see the annual Christmas photo of the British Royal family (or, any royal family or minor aristocracy, for that matter)? Personally, I want to see a glimpse of an opulently decorated Christmas tree. A centuries-old tapestry of a hunting scene. A corgi or two sneaking away from the Queen. A tiara on both the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte. Otherwise, what’s the difference between a royal Christmas card and a Christmas card from your not-a-royal (I presume) cousin?
But maybe it’s the modernizing, no-frills influence of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, whose first and only interview as a couple (with BBC) this year was set in what could have been a West Elm catalog. Last year, Will and Kate chose a candid photo snapped from a press trip to Canada, featuring cozy knitwear and natural sunlight on everyone. This year, Kensington Palace’s Christmas card photo of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) and their two children, shot by Getty photographer Chris Jackson, is glaringly minimalist. There’s a plain studio background, and all four family members are wearing some shade of blue to complement one another. One of Prince George’s socks is not pulled up to match the other one. Princess Charlotte is probably smiling at a puppy. The Duchess of Cambridge continues to look immaculate in a cinched pastel blue Catherine Walker suit that she’s pulled out before. The Duke of Cambridge looks perfectly happy and content, as he should be. The lighting is excellent, and there is a reason that Jackson is a Royal Photographer of the Year: because in-studio family photos can be awkward, but not when he does it.
There’s nothing particularly Christmas-y about this photo, except for the fact that any photo from Kensington Palace is a gift in itself. I mean, other than the fact that you will probably never look as polished as the Cambridges (even if one of them didn’t pull up their socks), you could have gone to JCPenney and gotten a similar family portrait done for $29.99. Still, anyone who receives this Christmas card is definitely keeping it on the fridge. Year round.