The wait is over. Almost two full weeks after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released their knee-heavy Middle Eastern-themed Christmas card, the Sussexes have finally settled on their stoop and published their own end-of-year tableau of domestic bliss. And it’s truly very nice, if you like that sort of thing.
What a year it’s been for Britain’s unofficial ambassadors to Santa Barbara. An annus dramaticus, if that’s a word, which it is not. The Sussexes’ 2021 started with a declaration that they will not be returning as working royals and would instead prefer a quiet life in California – a pledge they instantly underscored by conducting an exclusive, marmalade-dropping interview with the most famous television host on the planet.
They had a daughter, Lilibet. They got really into chickens. The Duchess won a major legal battle. And the Duke – please, just call him Harry – managed to secure a real job, working in Silicon Valley as chief impact officer at a start-up, which sees him… um, errrr, well, kind of… nope, I’ve just Googled for 10 minutes and still have no idea. I think he says “Hey guys!” a lot and repeatedly underlines the word “vibes” on a whiteboard but, as I say, I have no idea.
The main thing is that they’re happy, which is abundantly clear in the new Christmas card. There’s the four of them, swathed in 50 shades of denim, huddled on the front step of their home, Meghan and Harry beaming at baby Lilibet and Archie looking like he’s trying to escape. The “card” is really a sort of e-bookmark, under a cursive “Happy Holidays” and with a gentle message underneath, explaining that they have kindly donated to a number of charitable causes “on your behalf”. Which is great, because we’ve all been very busy.
There is a lot to take in, but here’s a few things that shoot through your mind as you look at it. Don’t deny it – this is your truth.
1. Do they own shoes?
If you are a watcher of these things, you’ll know that Prince Harry’s aversion to footwear is becoming legendary. It’s almost as if when he’s previously referenced the suffocating confines of growing up in an institution that saw his life mapped out for him, he was actually just referring to the fact he had to wear socks a lot in England.
This is a man who is so grounded, so connected to the earth, that he will not be inhibited by cotton and leather and laces. They were absent in February, when the unshod couple announced their latest pregnancy, and the whole family (bar Meghan, whose nude pump we will choose to ignore) is on board now.
The Cambridges, in their Christmas card? Shoes aplenty. Couldn’t move for shoes. That’s because they’re stiff and conform to the system, man. Harry, and Archie, and even Lili? They’ve got their bare feet on the ground, or at least near the ground. It’s better for their spirit, it’s better for the planet and it’s better for the alignment of the foot. Or to put that last point another way, it helps you… Archewell. We got there in the end, thank you.
2. A little bit of knee goes a long way
As has been mentioned, the Cambridges’ Christmas portrait put more emphasis on knees than a Cossack health conference. William had his fully out, as did George and Louis. Kate even had to put her hand on one of her husband’s, as if to say, “Show some respect, Willsy, nobody needs to see that.”
Well, the Sussexes can’t claim they don’t read the press, because they’ve obviously heard that criticism and decided that less is more. “If knees are what we’re doing this year, we’re going to be classy about it,” you can imagine Meghan saying, as she bit into Harry’s Levis and tore a small hole while the photographer set up. “There – you’re giving the people what they want, but you’re not being gratuitous about it. We’re not having another incident like when I showed my entire shoulders and it was deemed a hate crime even though Kate had done it before.”
3. Why is Archie dressed as Simon Cowell?
I know children like to wear fancy dress costumes all year round – Captain America to feed the ducks, Princess Elsa at a funeral, sometimes they just cannot be dissuaded – but surely they could have convinced Archie to change out of his Etsy-bought “SIMON COWELL / PHILIP GREEN AUTHENTIC HALLOWE’EN OUTFIT WITH REAL WORKING BUTTONS AND TOBACCO SCENT, kids size 3-6 years” for this special occasion? Otherwise he looks very cool.
4. Lilibet looks like a laugh
That’s it, she just does. Overall, great kids, 10/10.
5. Why do some of the letters in “Happy Holidays” not overlay the photograph, but others do?
It’s possible you didn’t think this, but once you notice it, it does grate slightly.
6. “HSH Alexi Lubomirski”
Tiny thing, but Alexi Lubomirski, the credited photographer – who also took the couple’s wedding and engagement photographs – has the official title “His Serene Highness”, thanks to his links to European royalty. And that is an outstanding moniker, far, far better than HRH or Duke or Duchess or chief impact officer. I wouldn’t renounce that one either.
7. Lovely picture, but the text…
“This year, 2021” – thank you, I actually did think it was still 2020 – “we welcomed our daughter, Lilibet, to the world.” Correct. Anything else happen this year for the family? That’s it, that’s the only notable event in the round robin letter? OK, fine, yep. “Archie made us a ‘Mama’ and a ‘Papa’, and Lili made us a family.” Technically you already are a family as three, but go on…
“As we look forward to 2022, we have made donations on your behalf to several organisations…” Well, thank you, and they are all very worthy American causes, but “on your behalf” does make it sound like they’ve deducted a tenner from every one of their Instagram followers, in the manner of a school telling its parents the history trip to Ypres “is entirely optional, but we’ve already sent you an invoice for £120 – please let us know if you’d rather your child not take part”. Check your bank statements.