Anniversary and birthday messages from Her Majesty The Queen
The format of anniversary messages has changed many times since they were first regularly sent out by the Royal Household in 1917. Initially, the message did not come from the Sovereign, but from the Private Secretary of the time on their behalf.
A cutting from a national newspaper records a congratulatory message sent on behalf of King Edward VII to the Reverend Thomas Lord of Horncastle in April 1908. The article reproduces the text of the message:
“I am commanded by the King to congratulate you on the attainment of your hundredth year, after a most useful life.”
and notes that the recipient issued the following reply:
“I beg gratefully to acknowledge the receipt of your Majesty’s gracious congratulations. That your life and that of our beloved Queen may be long spared to be a blessing to your people is the earnest prayer of your loyal and loving subject.”
The tradition of sending a message of congratulations to those celebrating their one hundredth birthday and sixtieth wedding anniversary began with King George V in 1917. A message from 1919 sent to a centenarian on behalf the King, reads:
“His Majesty’s hope that the blessings of good health and prosperity may attend you during the remainder of your days.”
Originally, congratulatory messages were sent as telegrams by the Royal Mail’s Inland Telegram Service. Messages were renamed Royal Court Telegrams, probably in the early 1940s, and a Royal Crest was added to the top of the page.
When the Post Office introduced the Special Greetings Telegram (a colourful letter template onto which the telegram was written or printed) The Queen agreed that the birthday telegrams should be sent out in this format to add to the sense of occasion. These special templates changed design over the years, reflecting the developing tastes and fashions of the times.
The telegram service was discontinued in 1982 and was replaced by a telemessage – a combination of telegram and letter – sent by British Telecom.
The Royal Household took the opportunity presented by the changed format to create a special card in which the telemessage would be inserted. A design showing the Royal Coat of Arms on the front and a picture of a Royal Mail Coach inside, indicating the nature and the provenance of the message, was approved by The Queen. The messages have been sent out in cards ever since.
The cover image is changed every five years to ensure that it looks as fresh and up to date as possible, and so that those who are lucky enough to receive multiple cards are not sent duplicates. Previous designs have shown Royal residences and images of The Queen.
The current image, taken at Sandringham House, depicts The Queen in a lime green dress and wearing a brooch which she gave to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother as a one hundredth birthday present.
The text on the current card is generally not made public, to retain the element of surprise for those who have yet to receive their special greeting from The Queen. Her Majesty’s signature has appeared on every card since 1999.
The wording has changed subtly over the current reign so that recipients of more than one card do not receive exactly the same greeting again.
The Queen will send a congratulatory message on the following occasions:
The Queen sends messages for Diamond (sixtieth), sixty-fifth and Platinum (seventieth) wedding anniversaries and then every year thereafter.
Her Majesty does not send a message for Silver (twenty-fifth), Ruby (fortieth) or Golden (fiftieth) wedding anniversaries.
The Queen sends messages for one hundredth and one hundred and fifth birthdays and then every year thereafter.