It has been a long established (and largely well known) Royal tradition that the reigning Monarch sends out a message on the occasion of someone’s 100th birthday. Whilst many people are aware of this, very few know much more than that.
It was King George V who first sent out a message to someone on the occasion of their 100th birthday in 1917. When it was first issued, the message didn’t come from the King, but from the Private Secretary of the time on their behalf.
An early example of an 100th birthday message from the Sovereign was a cutting from a newspaper in which King Edward VII’s secretary sent to the Reverend Thomas Lord of Horncastle in April 1908, ‘I am commanded by the King to congratulate you on the attainment of your hundredth year, after a most useful life.’
From this early message from Edward VII, the tradition of sending a message of congratulations to those celebrating their one hundredth birthday and sixtieth wedding anniversary was formally started by King George V in 1917.
Congratulatory messages were sent as telegrams by the Royal Mail’s Inland Telegram Service. Messages were renamed Royal Court Telegrams, probably in the early 1940s, and a Royal Crest was added to the top of the page.
When the Post Office introduced the Special Greetings Telegram (a colourful letter template onto which the telegram was written or printed) The Queen agreed that the birthday telegrams should be sent out in this format to add to the sense of occasion. These special templates changed design over the years, reflecting the developing tastes and fashions of the times.
In 1999, Buckingham Palace decided they would move with the times and produced a greetings card style telegram which featured a personalised message and offered a more warm and personal greeting. The front of the card bears a picture of Her Majesty which changes every few years so those who are fortunate enough to receive second and further cards have different cards.
The message inside the card says, “I am so pleased to know that you are celebrating your one hundredth birthday. I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion”.
Messages from The Queen are available for people on:
- their 100th, 105th birthday and any birthday after 105
- their 60th, 65th, 70th wedding anniversary and any wedding anniversary after the 70th.
People must apply (with proof of birth/marriage) no sooner than 3 weeks before the event.
Applications can be made online through a special form on the Royal website.