The theory behind why the royal Christmas card looks so different this year.

The annual royal Christmas card has just been released and the Prince William and Princess Catherine's new family portrait is a... bit of a surprise.

It's not unusual for the world to be taken aback by a family portrait from the royals because, quite frankly, we love to see just how much the kids have grown, what everyone is wearing and just how different (or similar) each portrait is to the pics of years gone by.

King Charles III chose to use a picture from his Coronation earlier this year, posing alongside his wife Queen Camilla at Buckingham Palace.

And now the Prince and Princess of Wales have released their annual pic: a black-and-white photo of their family in similar smart-casual outfits of jeans and white button-downs.

Their photo was taken by Yorkshire-born photographer Josh Shinner and if we're being honest, this year's portrait felt unfamiliar.

As such, the portrait has gone immediately viral – and royal watchers instantly started speculating on possible reasons this image looks so different to what we've seen before from the family. 

Here are four theories behind the changes in Christmas photos this year.

1. Why it dropped the day after the latest in the Omid Scobie debacle.

Ah, the royal elephant in the room. 

It was hard not to notice that the royal family members all released their annual Christmas card portraits a few days after journalist and author Omid Scobie broke his silence about naming King Charles III and the Princess of Wales as the ones who allegedly made concerning remarks about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's son Archie.


An early draft of Endgame, the new book by the journalist, made headlines for outing the pair, with Scobie confirming that their inclusion wasn’t a "translation" error but the result of an early, unapproved manuscript being sent to publishers before the names were removed for the final version (which they were meant to, based on "watertight" legal advice).

Scobie's original version directly and indirectly implicated the King and Princess as expressing "concerns" over the skin colour of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first child.

"Unbeknownst to me at the time, early and uncleared text was provided to the Dutch publisher in order for them to start work on the translation, with the understanding that their translation would be updated to reflect the final version of the book I officially submitted," Scobie said, per iNews.

In light of the scandal, the release of the royal portraits seems a little... convenient. What better way to distract the masses from a major scandal than by showing a happy, gorgeous family unit?

2. Why they're looking so formal but... not?

Here's the thing: Kate and Wills are kind of known for their super-casual official Christmas shots. Sure, there have been a couple of more formal pics along the way (we're looking at you, 2017) – but what we usually get from this group are candid(ish), even playful shots, often taken in fun outdoor locations. 


So this posed family shot has an air of formality to it that we don't often see from this party of five. You might say it has a more... regal feel than we've previously seen.

Why this matters? In 2021, when Liz was still on the throne, there was a poll that determined the British people wanted Prince William ahead of his own father for their king, with 47 per cent of survey respondents preferring the younger royal. Just 27 per cent wanted King Charles taking the reins after his mum. Could this be a nod to the face that Prince William will take the crown sooner than we think?

Wills will presumably be younger when he takes over the monarchy than King Charles was when he took over from Queen Elizabeth. As such, we can presumably expect a very different ruler – one who will govern with a modern spin instead of a traditional one. So this photo is really just giving the people what they want – a reminder that a new king is in the wings, and new traditions may just be coming with him when Prince William does eventually take the throne.

3. Why it's in black and white.

Anyone who saw the new family portrait might have felt like it was... familiar photo, somehow.

Anyone who thought that would be right.

In the image, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis all gaze directly at the camera, with Princess Charlotte (who's looking far more grown-up than we're ready for, BTW) sitting in a chair surrounded by her family. And it was incredibly reminiscent of a portrait Prince William and his brother Prince Harry had taken when they were kids in 1992. 


In fact, it was the last royal Christmas card to be sent out by then-Prince Charles and Princess Diana, who separated that year. 

Coincidence? We choose to believe not!

4. Why they're all in jeans and button-down shirts.

It's easy to draw a comparison between this year's royal Christmas card portrait and the one Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle took with their two children – Archie and Lilibet – in 2021.


No, their pic wasn't taken in black and white, but it did feature the family dressed down in denim, looking serene and calm, with Archie in Harry's lap and Lilibet in Meghan's outstretched arms.

It was the first photo of the couple's youngest child to be shared with the world and became a historic image, particularly considering it was taken almost two years after the pair announced they were standing down as senior royal members of The Firm.


The Prince and Princess of Wales' Christmas family portrait isn't an exact replica of the Sussexes' 2021 Christmas card, but the similarities are there – the simplicity of it all, from the jeans to the casual buttoned shirts, and the chilled demeanour.

The question is: why? It could well be a step towards letting The People know that a happy, calm family is soon to be at the helm of the monarchy, setting the scene for Prince William's transition to King. 

Or it could just be that they liked what Hazza and Megs were going for and thought they'd have a crack at it themselves – with a couple of years delay hoping we wouldn't notice.

We always notice.

Whatever it is Prince William and Princess Catherine want to portray with this year's card, royalists are loving the new-look royal Christmas shot. Is it too soon to start thinking about what they'll do next year?

Feature Image: Instagram @princeandprincessofwales.

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