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Markle sparkle v. country Kate: Two very telling cards…

Time to drop a deep curtsey in the direction of your letter box and give thanks for the annual arrival of the Royal Christmas cards. 

Each year, prominent members of the Windsor clan send out festive greetings cards featuring a photograph of themselves on the front.

Whether the pose is formal or informal, be they performing royal duties or relaxing at home, the cards impart an important message as to how the royals see themselves or – more crucially – how they wish to be seen.

And this year’s efforts from the households of the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex offer some eyeball-whirling revelations.

Let us consider the evidence: First, William and Kate. In the grounds of Anmer Hall, their country home in Norfolk, the couple have gone for a casual, autumnal theme for their Christmas card

If proof were needed as to the widening gulf in style, attitude and aspirations between the two brothers and their wives, look no further than this pair of beautifully presented cards. 

If every royal picture tells a story, then these two royal pictures tell an epic tale of ongoing imperial divergence; of home front versus Hollywood, of old school versus new perspectives, of substance over style.

Let us consider the evidence: First, William and Kate. In the grounds of Anmer Hall, their country home in Norfolk, the couple have gone for a casual, autumnal theme for their Christmas card. 

Posing against a tree trunk, all the gang have come out to play in their freshly pressed Saturday casuals; a selection of jeans, lumberjack shirts and woolly jumpers in blue hues that make them look like the ultimate Boden family.

With their children’s arms around them, chubby little hands gripping on tight, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge look relaxed and truly, deeply happy. 

Prince George is being cheeky and playful, Princess Charlotte is sweetly mischievous, while Prince Louis is just a warm hug of adorable; a Buddha of love beaming away in Mummy’s safe embrace. 

In contrast to the Cambridges’ manifestation of cosy domesticity, the Sussexes have released a stylised, glamorous image from their Frogmore wedding reception

In contrast to the Cambridges’ manifestation of cosy domesticity, the Sussexes have released a stylised, glamorous image from their Frogmore wedding reception

Theirs is an irresistible image; one that says we are cheerful, we are content, we are an ordinary family – just like you.

Of course, this is a total fiction in almost every way. Every vestige of privilege and nobility has been carefully sandblasted from this picture; including the mighty Georgian splendour of Anmer Hall itself, complete with swimming pool and tennis court, which is just out of shot. 

There is no ostentation, precious little affectation and an evident horror of being seen as high-born or – shudder – wealthy.

Even darling little Charlotte has been shoehorned into one of George’s old cast-offs; the navy cardigan he wore when posing with the Queen for her 90th birthday portrait and indisputable proof of Kate’s thriftiness.

Prince George is being cheeky and playful

Princess Charlotte is sweetly mischievous

Prince George is being cheeky and playful (left), Princess Charlotte is sweetly mischievous (right)

The duke and duchess have taken pains to look like Mr and Mrs Utterly Ordinary and bless them for that. 

We know that off camera, an army of silent staff are attending to needs, while an aide is palming a fiver into the hand of the hairdresser who did Kate’s Downhome Duchess blow dry.

I also suspect Granny Carol is making smoked salmon canapes in the kitchen and chilling the weekend champagne, while Spanish Nanny In The Hat has finished boil washing the princely nappies and begun coddling eggs for the nursery tea.

Yet despite the insistence on the modest and the humble in this image, there is something vivid and genuine about Kate and William’s choice of Christmas card. 

Here, we can see clearly that they are a couple who prize their hearthside, who put family first and who look out at the world with a confident and warm gaze.

Meanwhile Harry and Meghan – oh lawks, where on earth to begin?

In contrast to the Cambridges’ manifestation of cosy domesticity, the Sussexes have released a stylised, glamorous image from their Frogmore wedding reception. 

One that wouldn’t look out of place in the pages of Vogue. Or as an advertising poster for Berkshire’s number one wedding photographer, at the very least. 

The arty black and white shot finds Harry and Meghan silhouetted against the lake, watching the lavish fireworks display that was part of their celebrations. She is in her Stella McCartney white gown, he is in evening dress. 

 Charles and Camilla look like they have just grabbed five minutes on a park bench. They are not trying to impart any message

 Charles and Camilla look like they have just grabbed five minutes on a park bench. They are not trying to impart any message

Well, we presume that he is, as the couple have their backs to the camera. That’s right. Their BACKS.

Remarkably, for their first Christmas card as man and wife, Meghan and Harry have chosen to present their exclusive coupledom as a fortress; impregnable, absolute, a bulwark against the public gaze.

Harry might as well have pinned a notice on to his dinner jacket shoulders saying ‘Keep Out’. 

What an odd image to put on a festive card and expect it to be displayed on a mantelpiece. It’s so unwelcoming, so chilly, so very, very an advert for Tiffany wedding rings.

And to be honest, it is not a very good image. It doesn’t even look like Harry. Who is that bloke? He looks too bulky, as if he were wearing a Beast fat suit to escort his Beauty down to the lakeside. 

What’s going on with his left leg? It looks like a banana. And he appears to have grown a cupola on his head.

That is why it is quite a relief to turn to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall’s easy-going Christmas card 

That is why it is quite a relief to turn to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall’s easy-going Christmas card 

Meghan is clinging on to him like a barnacle on a boat, like only she knows how. This is all about the exclusivity of their romance and indeed, their very existence.

Look at us, no don’t look at us, they seem to be saying. 

Over recent months, this appears to sum up their attitude to the public, to the courtiers who toil on their behalf and even perhaps to the rest of the Royal Family. 

They have the privilege and the perks, the deference and the position, but they don’t always want the public engagement that goes with the territory.

So here they are, backs to the world, beating on against the tide. In essence this card is a celebration of themselves; a couple who relish being trapped in their own interior drama. It is Harry and Meghan against the world, and don’t you ever forget it.

You don’t need to be a mystic to read the optics and understand the subliminal messages that embellish each of these royal images – why, they couldn’t be clearer if they were branded on with hot irons!

That is why it is quite a relief to turn to the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall’s easy-going Christmas card.

Charles and Camilla look like they have just grabbed five minutes on a park bench. They are not trying to impart any message. 

They don’t give a damn. Camilla is probably dying for a gasper. Charles looks chuffed, as well he might. 2018 has been a memorable year with a landmark birthday, all passed without scandal or indignity.

This couple once carried their own storm around with them for years, now they have sailed into a calm harbour. And it shows.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk