There Are More Hidden Messages in the Wales Family Christmas Card Than You Probably Realize

As ever with the royal family, nothing is without symbolism and meaning.

Wales family Christmas card 2023
(Image credit: Josh Shinner/The Prince and Princess of Wales)

If we know anything about the royals it’s that they’re in the details—and there is a “powerful signal” the Prince and Princess of Wales are displaying in their newly released family Christmas card, featuring both of them alongside their kids Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.

The black and white photo is a departure from previous Christmas cards, and their casual clothes and the position of Kate, George, and Charlotte all carry a deeper meaning, body language expert Judi James told The Sun

Wales family at Christmas carol concert

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the photo, the family of five are all wearing white shirts and dark pants and look relaxed as they smile at the camera. James said the “monochrome photo might not suggest a typical Christmas look” and there “is a very powerful signal that the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children are announcing”: It comes down to “the fact that they are a very cool and a very unbreachable family unit,” she said. “The strong sense of tight, loving, uniformed grouping and the stark monochrome—plus the relaxed and confident body language—looks like the emotional equivalent of them having a moat and drawbridge around them.”

James added that “We’re being shown the strength and total confidence of the pared-down family brand here, without all the trimmings and trappings of their royal status. We know they look superb in formalwear and royal regalia, but this is the casual and much more relatable version, and, if anything, it proves they’ve got the charisma with or without the diamonds and medals. The casual jeans and white shirts look effortlessly cool on all of them, and the simple ‘uniform’ signals teamwork and group resilience.”

Wales family at Christmas carol concert

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Though they are a united front as a family, “their body language defines them as five individual personalities,” James said. “Each one of them wears a different smile and their poses hint at a slow but seismic movement in the power balance, just like any other close and loving family when the children start to grow up.”

James made particular mention of Charlotte’s position in the photo: “Previous Christmas cards have shown poses that have been built around William,” she said. “Here, though, it seems to have been built around Charlotte. Sitting in the middle of the pose while the others stand, she looks confident, relaxed, and elegant. If you took the others out of the pose, she would still make a congruent photo.” James specifically zoomed in on “her gleaming eye-smile and symmetric mouth smile,” which signals “authentic happiness.”

Wales family at Christmas carol concert

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“But there is also a subtler and more poignant factor about the way the group have gathered around the daughter on a chair,” James said. “Charlotte looks so much like the late Queen, and this central status-rich pose and beautiful smile are like echoes of Elizabeth when she was young. This effect doesn’t look deliberate, but it is still a rather moving message from this family Christmas card.”

As for William, James noticed his “head-tilt” which “suggests a desire to be liked,” she said. “His smile and his pose have the look of a proud dad who is happily beginning to be pushed to the back row as his three more independent children take to the front. He still has a hand on Prince Louis’ shoulder, but his youngest son’s grin here suggests he will be needing less and less protection from his dad as time goes on.”

And don’t miss the signals of romance from Kate—“Kate leans into William’s torso to make this a subtly romantic pose, too though,” James said. “Her perfect, Duchenne smile looks more confident than William’s, and with her husband on one side and son George leaning in on her torso on the other, the sense of unity and loving continuity looks strong.”

Prince Louis at his debut "Together at Christmas" concert

(Image credit: Getty Images)

And what of George, our future king? “Prince George’s pose makes him look at his most relaxed and grown-up to date,” James said. “He is smiling but he’s not following the group norm with a teeth-baring smile. This is one of the first poses where he has begun to look like very much his own young man with his own identity rather than William’s mini-me. George’s best smiles have been photographed by his mother, and he has tended to look a little uncomfortable in formal poses. But here he has one hand slung casually in his pocket, and his smile is shown in his eye expression, with a soft, closed-lip mouth smile.”

King Charles and Queen Camilla Christmas card 2023

(Image credit: Hugo Burnand/Buckingham Palace)

The photo was taken by photographer Josh Shinner earlier this year at Windsor and is especially informal compared to King Charles and Queen Camilla’s more formal Christmas card, also released yesterday.

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.