Thursday, January 25, 2018

King Willem-Alexander & Queen Maxima - Christmas Reply (2017)

This reply arrived today from the Netherlands. I had written to King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in December to wish them and their family a very Merry Christmas. 

The Netherlands have a pretty simple envelope, with nothing on the back. The message under the Blue Crown reads "Dienst Van Het Koninklijk Huis/ Bureau of the Royal Household."


One thing I immediately noticed about the envelope is the postmark is a lighter blue than before, and they opted for a Priority mail sticker. What more, they have changed their NetSet account number (previously PB 865344, now MS 150007). You can see an example of the old envelope below. 

The NetSet program allows people to frank their mail, (print the postage on the envelope). Each account has it's own number so that PostNL can charge the correct person or organization. I assume the account number change is what prompted the redesign. 


Inside the envelope is the Royal Family's Christmas Card. This card was produced by Belarto in the Netherlands to raise money for UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund). The past few years the family has sent cards from the same Christmas set.


There are 5 different card designs in the set. The Royals use all 5 designs each year. So if you wrote to them this year, you may have received a different design. Luckily, in the 3 years I've written to them for Christmas, I have yet to receive any duplicates. 

My 2015, 2016 & 2017 Christmas Card from the Netherland Royals

The message on the inside is the same as previous years. Although in 2015, I received the Dutch version. 


The message reads:
The Majesties The King and Queen of the Netherlands thank you, on behalf of the entire royal family, for your kind Christmas greetings and send you their very best wishes for the year ahead.  
Noordeinde PalaceThe Hague

The back of the card gives some information about the card's production. These cards were not designed especially for the Netherland Royals. Rather they just buy cards for sale by UNICEF and have a message printed on the inside.


It's really great to see the couple use their Christmas Card to support such a great cause. King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima have been long supporters of UNICEF and the United Nations. Both of them have sat on various advisory boards for the UN over the years. 

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Wessexs - Christmas Reply (2017)

Today's reply was a bit of a surprise. It is from Prince Edward & Countess Sophie (AKA the Earl and Countess of Wessex). They don't very often reply to letters, so this is a nice treat. This is only the 2nd reply I've gotten from them over the years.

I wrote to the family in December to wish them a very merry Christmas. The front of the envelope is the usual from the Wessexs.


It looks different from most of the other Envelopes from the British Royals. This is mainly because it is not processed through the Court Post Office at Buckingham Palace, so it doesn't have that postmark and stamp. The Wessex's home and office is at Bagshot Park, which is a little over an hour from London and 25 mins from Windsor Castle.

The letter is written by Mr. Matthew Magee, the couple's assistant private secretary. At the top of the page is the couple's combined coat of arms.


The letter reads:
Dear Miss Daly,  
Thank you for your letter with kind words to The Earl and Countess of Wessex.  
Although Their Royal Highnesses are unable to reply personally, The Earl and Countess of Wessex have asked me to thank you for taking the time to write and to pass on their best wishes for 2018. 
Yours Sincerely,  

Mat Magee
Deputy Private Secretary to TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Prince Charles & Duchess Camilla - Christmas Reply (2017)

A reply arrived today from the UK for the Christmas Letter I send Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla. The reply is same as their previous Christmas replies: a postcard-sized photo with typed message on the back.

The photo is from the couple's Tour of Europe in March/April. The photo was taken on March 31st in Italy by Alessandra Benedetti. Benedetti is an Italian-Hungarian photographer based in Italy. The Royals always love to use a photo from one of their tours for their replies. But it is especially lovely that they chose to feature a local photographer.


The photo is from the couple's first Day in Italy. They are posing on the historic Ponte Santa Trìnita (Holy Trinity Bridge), in Florence.

The message on the back has slightly different wording from previous years.


The card reads: 
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall would like to thank you so much for the kind Christmas message which was greatly appreciated by them.  
Their Royal Highnesses send you their warmest best wishes for a very Happy New Year. 

Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg - Christmas(2017)/Birthday (2018) Reply

Today I received a reply from Luxembourg for the Christmas/97th Birthday letter I sent Grand Duke Jean. Grand Duke Jean reigned from 1964, until his abdication in 2000. His son, Grand Duke Henri, is Luxembourg's current monarch.

The envelope features two rather lovely stamps and an "Utilisez nos timbres spéciaux de Noël/ Use our special Christmas stamps" postmark. The envelope is postmarked December 21st, so this took a full 3.5 weeks to arrive. That is a little longer than normal, but understandable during the slow holiday season.


The past 2 years I've written for Grand Duke Jean's Birthday in January. But this year I decided to write earlier and make my letter for Christmas and his birthday.

The card is slightly bigger than the Grand Duke's previous birthday replies, but it's the same size as the replies from the rest of the family.


The card reads:
Fischbach Castle
Luxembourg 
December 2017 
His Royal Highness Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg appreciated your kind greetings and birthday wishes. His Royal Highness sends you His warmest thanks and best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy Year 2018. 
--
I have yet to get my Christmas reply from Grand Duke Henri & Grand Duchess Maria Teresa. I am still awaiting replies for more than half of my Christmas letters.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Prince Albert & Princess Charlene of Monaco - Christmas Reply (2017)

A reply arrived today from Monaco!

It is of course from Prince Albert and Princess Charlene for the Christmas letter I send them.

The envelope is marked "Service of HSH the Princess of Monaco" and features Monaco's "Happy Holidays" postmark.

The stamp is from 2017, and depicts the Battle of Chemin Des Dames. The Battle of Chemin Des Dames (also called Second Battle of the Aisne) was between French-Russian troops & German troops during WWI. The stamp's release coincides with the 100th anniversary of the battle.

On the stamp is Prince Louis II (Prince Albert's great-grandfather), who volunteered to serve in the French Army during WWI. It was for his service, Prince Louis was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour from France. This is France's highest order of merit for military persons.


The Monaco Royals Christmas card has the same basic look each year, but they like to switch up the paper. Sometimes it more glossy, sometimes it's more of an ivory color. This year the card and the envelope have sparkles. (And yes, the Monaco Royals are big on matching the paper and envelopes). It is hard to see the sparkles from the photos, but if you get the light to hit just right... Here is a photo of the back of the envelope, you can see the sparkles on the left. The back of the envelope also features the couple's joint monogram.


The front of their card features a photo of 3-year-old twins, Crown Prince Jacques and Princess Gabrielle. The photo was taken by Vanessa Von Zitzewitz, who is one of the family's favorite photographers. The top of the card also has Albert & Charlene's joint monogram. The monogram along with the red border are embossed, which make the card extra nice.


Inside the card is a message from the couple, written in French, English and Monégasque. The message changes each year. The two signatures are printed on and are the same as past years.


The card reads:

At the dawn of this New Year 2018, we send you and your loved ones oue warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas filled with joy, health and happiness.  

Albert de Monaco    Charlene de Monaco 

This is the first time they have included a photo on the inside of their Christmas card, (or at least this is the 1st time since I started writing to them 4 years ago). Usually, the left side of the card is blank.

What is very interesting about the photo on the inside, is it is a repeat from their Christmas card last year. I understand, with just the twins on the front of the card, they wanted to include the whole family on the inside. But it seems odd to go with a year-old photo that was apart of your Christmas card last year. (And don't get me started on that weird effect.)

You can compare the photo from this year and last year. This photo was also taken by Vanessa Von Zitzewitz.


Breaking from their past cards, the back of Monaco Christmas card features a small photo of the Prince's Palace of Monaco. The photo is from October 2016, when the Palace was light up orange in support of the Flavien Foundation. The foundation was created in 2014 in honor of Flavien, an boy from Monaco who passed away at age 8 from brain cancer. The Flavien Foundation is Monaco's 1st charity for pediatric cancers and rare diseases.


Friday, January 5, 2018

Duchess Sarah - Christmas Reply (2017)

Another Christmas reply arrived today! This time for the UK. I had written to Sarah, Duchess of York last month for Christmas. (I wrote separately to Prince Andrew, Duke of York as they are divorced.)

Sarah usually replies with one of the York Family Personal Christmas Cards. (This year's card is about 2/3 the size of last year's card.) The front of the card features Prince Andrew's Blue Cypher.



The inside of York's 2017 Christmas Card, is a typed message, "Wishing you much joy and happiness at this time and for the year ahead." Below that are 4 printed on signatures of the Yorks. The signatures are the same they've used in past years.



Noticeably absent from any of the pictures is Duchess Sarah. I find it bit strange she would send this card to well-wishers, who wrote to her for Christmas when it barely featured her.

The card features 3 photos of Princess Beatrice & Eugenie taken at Buckingham Palace by Prince Andrew. They are from 2016 when the Royal Family attended the Patron Lunch to celebrate the Queen's 90th Birthday. Sarah, no longer a member of the Royal Family, was absent from the event.



I do enjoy seeing the girls' playful side. And it is obvious these sisters are very close.


The photo of Prince Andrew is also from 2016, when he attended the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the United Arab Emirates. Given that Prince Andrew attended with Beatrice, I wouldn't be surprised if she took this photo.


I have a feeling the reason for all these 2016 photos is because they just came across this images again. Maybe they found a misplaced memory card. Princess Beatrice & Eugenie's profiles on the Duke of York's website were updated at the beginning of December with photos from this Queen's Patron Lunch shoot as well.

Now on to the envelope. The reply is from Sarah. But the envelope screams Andrew. The back features Prince Andrew's Cypher.



The front of the envelope features the iconic red 1st Class stamp, you see on most of the mail from the Royals. You will notice the PPI code, W7047 on the red stamp. Basicly PPI codes allows people, businesses, orgs, etc. to print on the envelope their own "Stamp"(like this 1st Class red one), send the mail, and then the system will charge their account the amount for the letter. It's great for people sending large amounts of mail.


W7047 is PPI code shared by the Royal Family. Sarah has her own personal PPI code (HQ 6515), which she uses for her normal correspondence. Since this was a joint Christmas card, I guess Andrew is picking up the tab for postage.

But what else is very intresting is, there is no Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle Postmark. Normally Sarah's mail doesn't have one because it isn't processed through the Court Post Office at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle. But this is interesting because it's the first time I've seen the Royal PPI stamp used on an envelope that wasn't processed through one of the Court Post Offices.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Crown Prince Jacques & Princess Gabriella of Monaco - Birthday Reply (2017)

My first reply of 2018 arrived today from Monaco. I had written at the end of November for Christmas and the Twins 3rd birthday. As they usually do, the Monaco Royals sent out separate replies for the two events. The first to arrive is the Twin's birthday reply.

The envelope is the usual. It features a basic international stamp of Prince Albert, that was first issued in 2006. It has a "Joyeuses Fêtes/Happy Holidays" Postmark. The Monaco Post uses this same postmark each year from about the Monday before Christmas till December 30th.

The "Service de S.A.S. le Princesse de Monaco/ Service of HSH The Princess of Monaco" mark is a little interesting. I would expect a reply from both of the couple to feature the "Service of HSH The Prince of Monaco." But they've gotten things like that mixed up before.


The reply inside is a card. It's the same as the Twin's past birthdays reply, but with different wording. One side of the card has a typed message in French and on the other side is the message in English.

The top of the card features Jacques & Gabrielle's double monogram, with the Monaco Royal Coat of Arms.


The card reads:
Their Serene Highnesses Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene were very touched by your thoughtful gesture on the occasion of the third birthday of HSH Crown Prince Jacques & HSH Princess Gabriella and send you Their sincerest thanks and best wishes. 
This is the 1st time I've received the Twin's Birthday reply before the family's Christmas reply. But they usually arrive about the same time, so I will expect the Christmas reply any day now.

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King Philippe & Queen Mathilde of Belgium - Christmas (2017)

A reply arrived today from Belgium, for the Christmas letter I sent King Philippe & Queen Mathilde.

The envelope is the usual we see from them. It features the King & Queen's joint monogram, an F/P & M under a crown. The F/P represents King Philippe's name in Belgium's 3 official languages: French - Philippe, Dutch - Filip, & German - Philipp. 



Inside is the family's Christmas Card. It's the same as past years, except for the new photo and year.

The front of the card again features the King & Queen's joint monogram.


Inside is a message in Belgium's 3 official languages (Dutch, French & German) and English. The two signatures are printed on and are the same one used on their past card. The children's names are listed by order of age. 


The inside of the card also features a new family photo taken at the Royal Palace in Brussels. I'm not a huge fan of the black & white photo. I think the past Christmas cards were especially lovely with their bright bold colors. But I do like the more relaxed look, with Elisabeth & Mathilde in pants instead of dresses.

L-R: Princess Elenore (9), Princess Elisabeth (16), King Philippe, Prince Emmanuel (12), Queen Mathilde, & Prince Gabriel (14).

I believe the photo was taken in September, as photos from the same shoot were released for Princess Elisabeth & Prince Emmanuel's Birthdays in October.