Royal birthdays, the gifts that keep on giving

This weekend sees three big royal birthdays and a bit of a surprise. We expect anniversary photos from several of Europe's royal houses but the Windsors are rather more hit and miss when it comes to celebrating birthdays with new snaps. Not this year. As Sophie, Countess of Wessex marked her big day we got an avalanche of pictures and information about her on the official Royal Family social media accounts. Add in to that the expected new portraits from Norway and Belgium where other royal birthdays were being celebrated and the weekend turned into a bonanza of photos and that can only be good news for the royals.

The social media swirl that surrounded the 53rd birthday of the Countess of Wessex was perhaps the biggest surprise of the month so far (OK, maybe that's overegging it slightly but you get my meaning). As Sophie celebrated on January 20th, the official Royal Family Twitter account became a Wessex love in with countless messages about the work of the countess. Quite right, too. If there's one thing that all royal watchers agree on (and that's saying something) it's that Sophie doesn't get nearly enough credit and a lot of her work goes under the radar. As a birthday present, the Royal Family more than made up for that with a reminder of her many patronages and engagements. But it was also a bit of a bonanza for them. The Royal Family isn't a great one for sharing photos on birthdays unless they are a) major b) record breaking or c) cute kid centred. That approach is, frankly, like walking past an open goal. Birthdays are happy and easy. A couple of nice photos and some jolly messages goes a long, long way.

The Norwegian royals have long seen the benefit of that. We have come to expect birthday portraits of queen in waiting, Ingrid Alexandra, so a new snap of the princess on her 14th (January 21st) was a given. But the rather casual pic also shows just how easy the whole process is now that social media tells the story. Gone are the days when an official photographer had to be called in, formal outfits had to be worn, palace columns had to be found for people to stand in front of trying to look relaxed. This birthday portrait was taken by her dad. It's a perfect social media snap, the sort that Haakon and Mette-Marit might have shared of their daughter on a personal account if she didn't happen to be a second in line to the throne of Norway. Nowadays, a birthday image can be done in seconds but bring positive consequences that last far longer.

Round it goes, across Twitter, through Instagram, onto Facebook. One photo with only positive news attached to it and a whole day of likes and hearts and jolly messages. Queen Mathilde of the Belgians turned 45 on January 20th and, like Ingrid Alexandra, was bound to share a snap. We got a rather pretty portrait in pink just hours after another social media share of a Bake Off winner with a cake made for a queen. It's fun, it's quirky and it's setting the news agenda. Because in a 24 hour media age where the online equivalent of the presses never stop turning, it means that the image and the message that the royals want is out there. The birthdays are bound to get a mention somewhere and when so many outlets are so hungry for information all the time, what used to be a polite line in the Court Circular is now a news event in its own right. Put the photo out there, give people lots of positive stories around it and job done. It's a day of good news all round. It would be good to see the Windsors keep up this new tradition because the benefits are a gift that's too good to turn down.

Photo credits: Royal Family Twitter/ MonarchieBe Twitter/


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