Monarchy in monochrome: what are William and Kate saying in their family Christmas card? | Monarchy

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  • Post published:December 10, 2023
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On the Prince and Princess of Wales’s Christmas card, the family is shot in black and white against a mottled grey background of a material that looks almost furry, like the belly of a mole.

They are dressed casually, each in an open-necked white shirt with jeans. And it can’t help but seem like a nod to the kind of card Harry and Meghan would send – indeed, they did matching denim two years ago, though both the setting and the body language were much more relaxed.

In the Wales family picture, released on Sunday, William is smiling like you owe him money. Kate looks quite showbiz and sassy, like she might have a shot at her own show, if she could just sort out a more believable ensemble. George, self-possessed, does not smile while Louis has unwilling participant at the orthodonist energy. Charlotte, however, has smile enough for the whole lot of them.

And in their full glory: spot the – matching – casual sneakers. Photograph: Josh Shinner/Kensington Palace/PA

It sure as hell doesn’t look festive, with the banker-y, rather ominous monochrome. The insistent visual reference point is the Addams family, and the mood music is “these are dark times we’re living through, but not to worry, we are extremely rich”. Fair play, given the time of year; maybe they think “happy Christmas” is already implied, without the need for colour or twinkles.

But if not “season’s greetings”, they’re definitely trying to say something. Nobody wears a uniform without a purpose.

A white shirt and jeans is very on-trend, described by our fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley as “a friendly, open smile of an outfit: you are not trying to upstage, or to impress. You are just being yourself.” The look has been called “undone glamour” and “California cool”, and insofar as we can relate either of those phrases to a real-life meaning, it’s emphatically not what the Waleses are all about.

Their habitual look en famille is much more Little Piper Boy for the kids and William, with a side-order of understated newsreader glamour for Kate. This is not the Prince and Princess “being themselves”, this is them cosplaying some other family being theirselves – a family that prefers its top button undone and its hair fresh from the beach.

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California cool rejects formality, but there is no ease in its place; rather, a studied, corporatised perfection. It must be quite stressful for its participants, the visual language of the Americanised en famille: here we are in our civvies, take us as you find us, warts and all, except – praise be! – we don’t have any warts.

And there is one California couple, all too eager to show their warts of late, that this can’t help but seem like a reference to. What new front this Christmas vibe-snatching opens up in the war between the brothers and their wives is anyone’s guess.

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