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Postcards in the Royal Collection

A selection of the Royal Collection's 10,000 postcards

Post card portrait photograph of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret of York, c. 1932: Raphael Tuck & Sons postcard of HM Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret as young girls©

Postcards were one of the biggest crazes of the early twentieth century. The first picture postcard appeared in 1894 and their low cost, huge range of designs and an efficient postal system offering up to four deliveries a day soon made them a national craze. By the outbreak of the First World War the Post Office was delivering a billion postcards a year. The pictures on the front of the cards were colourful and varied - landscape and architectural views, portraits of royalty and celebrities of the day, important events, humorous cartoons, propaganda – any subject matter that might potentially be of interest. As well as sending cards to friends and family, it was fashionable to collect postcards in albums and many people could boast collections of several thousand postcards. Raphael Tuck & Sons, one of the main postcard publishers and the holder of the royal warrant, even organised national competitions for postcard collectors.

There was a unique relationship between the royal family and the picture postcard. They appeared on thousands of cards and were able to share events such as coronation and wedding celebrations with the general public in a new and hugely popular way. At the same time, the royal family were sending and collecting postcards with as much enthusiasm as everyone else. Postcards were a means for the family to keep in touch when separated for long periods by travel and official duties, and to share news and good wishes with their extended family across Europe. Collecting postcards became a popular royal pastime, and has led to the creation of albums that document five continents and many of the major events of the twentieth century.

Tuck post card envelope: Envelope containing four Tuck post cards of the Duchess of York with Princess Elizabeth©

Today, there are over 10,000 postcards in the Royal Collection. Most date from the 'golden age' of the picture postcard during the reign of King Edward VII, although the earliest cards were sent by Queen Victoria and the latest show Queen Elizabeth II and her family. Nearly every member of the royal family sent and received postcards, and the collection includes cards sent by King Edward VII, King George V and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna among many others. Queen Mary encouraged her sons, later King Edward VIII and King George VI, to collect postcards and their many surviving childhood albums form the bulk of the postcard collection. Covering a large variety of subjects these cards include news, loving messages, jokes and information about places visited. Sent between family members and close friends, the postcards in the Royal Collection give an insight into the affectionate relationships that existed between generations of the royal family and show the extent of their travels around the world.

To mark Royal Collection Trust's new twitter account @RCT, we have gathered together a collection of interesting royal postcards. Click on a postcard to take a closer look at what could be described as the tweets of their day.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.