Rare Royal Christmas Cards from Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles Up for Auction
The signed cards were originally sent to a worker on the Queen's Sandringham estate
The cards, which are all signed, were sent to a worker on the Queen's Sandringham estate and are expected to fetch up to $300 each when they go under the hammer at Rowley’s auction house in Ely, Cambridgeshire, on Dec.12.
All funds raised in the sale will go towards the care of patients at the Norfolk Hospice in King’s Lynn, which is just three miles from the Queen’s country home.
“They have been consigned by a former worker at Sandringham who clearly knew the family well,” says Roddy Lloyd, managing director of the saleroom.
“There is a full run of Christmas cards from the Queen and Prince Philip from 1998 until the present. And there are also several cards from Prince Charles which show lovely pictures of him and his two sons.
“We anticipate a lot of interest in these and they are in excellent condition - as if they have just been pulled from the envelope.”
The tradition of royal Christmas cards dates back to Queen Victoria and has seen generations of royals deliver seasonal messages of goodwill to everyone from their closest friends, to members of the Commonwealth and front line troops fighting both World Wars.
The Queen and Prince Philip now send around 750 Christmas cards each year, typically featuring a family photo on the cover and the signatures "Elizabeth R" and "Philip" on the inside, plus their official cyphers.
Every year, Prince William and Kate Middleton release a family-themed festive card to celebrate the holidays, with the 2019 edition showing a heart-warming portrait of the royals enjoying a vacation with children Prince George, 7, Princess Charlotte, 5, and Prince Louis, 2.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle also sent out their first card as a family of three in December 2019, starring an image of their then 7-month-old son Archie staring direct into the camera while the Duke and Duchess of Sussex relaxed beside a Christmas tree.
“Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. From our family to yours,” Meghan and Harry’s card read.
The cards being auctioned on Dec.12 include a variety of equally touching and amusing images. One striking photograph shows Prince Charles leaning through an ornate window frame, while Prince Harry playfully cuddles him around the shoulders and Prince William smiles overhead.
The royal trio is also pictured sitting in a field of poppies, relaxing in a cozy alcove, and enjoying the deck of the former Royal Yacht, Britannia.
A 2017 card from Queen Elizabeth, meanwhile, shows the monarch performing the slightly un-regal task of feeding a banana to an elephant.
Her well-known love of horses is also depicted in her 2012 Christmas card, which includes a photo of Prince Philip presenting her with a winner's trophy at Royal Ascot.
“The Norfolk Hospice were absolutely delighted to receive this generous donation of Royal Christmas cards late last year, illustrating fascinating snapshots of Royal history,” Lyndsay Carter, chief executive at The Norfolk Hospice, adds about the cards, which also show more formal images of the Queen and Prince Philip performing state duties.
Can’t get enough of PEOPLE‘s Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate Middleton, Meghan Markle and more!
“This auction is a fantastic opportunity for us to raise vital funds during these difficult times," she shares. "Many of our traditional fundraising activities have been impacted this year and our charity shops had to temporarily close once again in November.”
The Queen will not celebrate the holiday season at Sandringham this year. After careful consideration, the monarch, 94, and her husband, 99, will remain at Windsor Castle, where they have been isolating amid the ongoing pandemic.
“They understand that their family will have competing demands over the Christmas period and are content to have a quiet festive season this year," a royal source told PEOPLE after the news was announced on Dec. 1.
"Like everyone, their hope is that normality will return in 2021," the source added. The Queen and Philip may still see some members of their family, "but they understand that they have competing demands."