Image via Flickr creative commons from stev.ie
The first congratulatory telegram was officially sent out by the Royal household in 1917, during the time of King George V’s reign. But it is believed that the same monarch had instigated the practice nine years earlier when his is said to have sent a message congratulating the Reverend Thomas Lord, of Horncastle, Lincolnshire “on the attainment of your hundredth year, after a most useful life”.
When George V made the practice official custom in 1917, he decreed that they should be sent to all centenarians, and to couples reaching their 60th (diamond) wedding anniversary.
Adopting the Royal crest
Initially, the messages were sent as telegrams and delivered by the inland telegram service of the Royal Mail.
However, it was not until the 1940s that the messages received the addition of one of the most distinctive of emblems, the royal crest.
The Post Office later devised three different designs for its Special Greetings Telegrams which were approved by the Queen, and designed to be sent to recipients so that they could enjoy the sense of occasion which their arrival helped create. A number of changes have been made to these templates down the years, as fashions and tastes have changed.
The message changes
In 1982, the Royal telegram became the telemessage, and administration of the service was taken over by British Telecom.
This change was used as an opportunity to further refresh the look of the messages, and now the cover image is changed every five years to maintain its freshness, although the basic design still features the Royal coat of arms and a representation of a Royal Mail coach on the inside. The Royal household admits that one of the reasons for changing the design more regularly is because increasing numbers of households are receiving multiple cards, and they are less likely to get duplicated messages.
Images used on the card have also varied down the years, with a complete change being made approximately every five years. Depicted subjects have included, apart from several updated images of the Queen herself, pictures of her royal residences.
Signed, The Queen
It wasn’t until 1999 that a Royal signature was included on the card. As one of the longest-serving monarchs in the world, Her Majesty has seen many notable changes in the pattern and number of cards which are sent out in her name.
In 1952, fewer than 3,000 messages were sent. But by 2011, the number of 100th birthday messages alone was more than three times this figure, with more than 30,000 couples receiving a diamond wedding anniversary greeting.
Even if you forget someone’s landmark birthday until the very last minute, you can now take advantage of next day delivery to cover for your oversight. But recipients of those special Royal messages can be sure that the Queen’s staff are on the case, and, major unforeseen disruption apart, can expect to receive them in time for them to play a major part in the celebrations.
With the Queen seemingly increasing in popularity with the British public, royal memorabilia is more sought after than ever according to same day delivery specialist Parcel2Go, so it is lucky that more and more people are able to receive such a personal keepsake from Britain’s monarch.