In Britain, reaching a significant birthday or anniversary warrants a card from the monarch. For birthdays you can claim them for your 100th birthday, 105th birthday, and every birthday thereafter. For wedding anniversaries, it's your 60th, 65th, 70th, and every anniversary thereafter.
I've always been interested in this particular facet, and thought I'd share a gallery I've created of images of the Queen that have appeared on these cards. They paint an interesting picture of the ageing Queen, and I thought people here might find it interesting to see all of the designs that have appeared. The card design generally changed in around April/May, but there was no consistent rule about when it would.
Design #1 (1999-2004):
The Queen Mother famously received this on her 100th birthday, and the Queen specifically sat for this portrait to be put on the cards.
Design #2 (2004-2009):
It seems as though the colour of the tassel changed with this version to a slightly shinier gold.
Design #3 (2009-2014):
Doesn't she look thrilled...?
This is the image that is displayed on the lord lieutenant of Devon's website (Applying for Birthday and Anniversary Messages | Lord-Lieutenant of Devon (lordlieutenantofdevon.org.uk)). Notably, the person who received this card in 2013 (Kathleen Shaw) is still alive!
Design #4 (2010-2011):
Whilst there was a "standard" card used from 2009-2014, it seems as though they implemented a policy that nobody should now receive the same card twice, likely as a result of a certain Catherine Masters becoming extremely bored of receiving the same card and complaining to the Palace. Here she is, looking suitably bored with all her identical cards:
...and here she is after finally receiving a different one:
Design #5 (2011-2012):
Here's Hilda Greening, eldest Duracell sister, looking at her rather snazzy 107th birthday card, with her youngest sister, who was a mere 97.
Design #6 (2012-2013):
Here's Horace Preedy, flaunting his 107th birthday card.
Design #7 (2013-2014):
A particularly aesthetic image here, as Grace Jones coordinates with the Queen beautifully.
Design #8 (2014-2015):
The first instalment in the convention of having standard annual designs.
Design #9 (2015-2016):
The first time she appeared in green, donning a rather splendid hat too!
Design #10 (2016-2017):
Dark mode activated.
Design #11 (2017-2018):
Light mode restored.
Design #12 (2018-2019):
Grace Jones looking thrilled with her latest instalment.
Design #13 (2019-2020):
Back to the darker mode, but with quite a nice colour contrast on this one.
Design #14 (2020-2021):
Looking slightly menacing, it must be said.
Design #15 (2021-2022):
I quite like this design, personally. There's a really nice colour eruption.
Design #16 (2022):
Shown here is one of the very last cards sent out (for a birthday that occurred after the Queen had died). You can clearly see that she had lost quite a bit of weight in this one, and the cards serve as a poignant representation of the Queen's progression in age over 23 years.
I have wondered if any family has a collection that includes every single design - the Kingstons would have had all of them except probably one of the 2009-2014 designs (not sure which they'd have been missing as I can't be certain of the exact dates of issue/protocol regarding them, or if they claimed them at all). It's possible you could do it with a combination of an extremely long marriage and a spouse's birthday (or even just any family member), but I can't actually find any that meet the criteria (and it would still require them to be claimed - a lot of people don't know about the wedding anniversaries you can claim cards for, and some even throw them away (as I have heard a few times when I've asked relatives about them, which horrifies me). You do get some particularly marvellous collections, such as:
A couple's collection, on their 75th wedding anniversary:
Mary Keir's collection, showing up to her 109th:
Vi Malin's collection, showing up to her 111th:
And our beloved Ada Thompson's magnificent collection, not including her most recent one from the King:
So this is actually a rather recent tradition then?