The secret meaning behind royal portraits

Royals rarely do anything without considering the potential outcome. That's why it was so shocking that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their exit as senior royals seemingly without warning. It's also why you should take a closer look at the family's portraits because there tend to be meaningful messages behind each picture. For instance, on Jan. 3, 2020, the royals released a new photo of the reigning monarch along with three heirs to the throne. And while it was certainly sweet — if formal — there was more to the picture than you might assume.

"The recently-released snap, which featured the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George, sent a clear message that the royals always stick together and survive, the founder of the British Monarchists Society said," according to the Express. The image reportedly "conjure[s] a sense of unity, dignity, continuity, strength, comfort, and respect" and was reportedly meant "to bring a personal and human face to the shape-shifting and sometimes intangible facade of the Crown and the person who wears it. The Royal portrait is more than just a family, it is the tangible image of how the Crown is always there and continuously triumphs no matter what challenges it is presented with." 

Speaking of challenges, the photo may help the crown refocus the public's attention after more than one sticky situation.

The new portrait may divert attention from Harry and Andrew

Along with managing their regular duties, the royal family is also handling a slew of unwanted attention regarding "Megxit" as well as Prince Andrew's scandalous situation. That may be why the family released a new portrait in January 2020. Royal expert Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills told the Express that this was a "planned and calculated maneuver for the new decade, which shows stability, progress, future hope, and familiarity. This image sets aside the unfortunate situations members of the extended Royal Family have brought to the Queen's feet within the last days of the previous decade."

The portrait, which was taken by Ranald Mackechnie in the Throne Room at Buckingham Palace, "starts a new age, that shows us what the line of succession looks like as we journey into a different era ... The symbolism in the photo shows what we have had and what we know, tried and true, in the Queen, what we are going to get with Princes Charles and William, and the hopes and dreams of our nation in the young and impressionable Prince George." 

If we have to judge the future based on George's sweet smile, then we'd have to say that the road ahead for the royals looks simply adorable.

This isn't the first photo of the queen with her heirs

The January 2020 portrait featuring the current and future leaders of the royal family wasn't the first time the queen posed with her heirs. According to the Express, "The Queen has been seen with the current male line of future kings [twice] previously in 2013 [and] 2016." Those shots preceded a holiday-themed photograph of the monarch with Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince George that was shared on Dec. 21, 2019. That time around, they weren't posing for a formal portrait but were instead captured during a casual (if coordinated) moment preparing Christmas pudding together. As the trio of older royals watches over George, the youngest heir can be seen mixing the dessert ingredients in a big bowl. With George wearing a stylish shirt and a Christmas tree set up in the background, the only thing that's sweeter is the smiles on the faces of the adult princes — or maybe one of her favorite Christmas cookies.

Released to support The Royal British Legion's "Together at Christmas" initiative, the photo also earned plenty of praise from Instagram followers who left comments such as: "This is beautiful" and "Lovely photos, aww little George is having fun." If the intention of this image was to continue to woo the public while also spreading holiday cheer, then mission accomplished, but this wasn't the only way the queen tried to spread the festive spirit.

The queen posed for a Christmas portrait with photos of the family

Queen Elizabeth shares an annual Christmas message that's meant to inject a little joy into the world, and 2019 was no different. However, plenty of people were more interested in the photos that were prominently featured during her message — or rather, the public took notice of who wasn't in those particular images.

Filmed in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, the recording of the queen saw her sitting behind a desk to deliver her message. Beside her were framed photographs of her family, including her father, King George VI; her husband, Prince Philip; son, Prince Charles; his wife, Camilla; and a shot of Prince William with Kate Middleton and their children: Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.

While this seemed to be another sweet gesture, some couldn't help but notice that there wasn't a photograph of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle anywhere to be seen. Was this punishment for the pair opting to step back from royal duties? "Last year, the Queen displayed two photos of them — an official wedding portrait and a family picture of them celebrating heir to the throne Prince Charles' 70th birthday. ... She was also accused of removing their photo from her audience room in Buckingham Palace earlier this year," according to Page Six. Granted, there weren't pictures of the queen's other grandchildren either, but the fact is that this may be another example of the royals' tendency to transmit subtle messages each time they pose in front of a camera.