Queen Elizabeth II opens a session of the Parliament of Canada in Ontario with Prince Philip at her side. Britain's reigning monarch is also Canada's head of state, a government structure left over from when the region was under British rule, and the queen has visited Canada more than any other country during her reign.
Queen Elizabeth II opens a session of the Parliament of Canada in Ontario with Prince Philip at her side. Britain's reigning monarch is also Canada's head of state, a government structure left over from when the region was under British rule, and the queen has visited Canada more than any other country during her reign.
Photograph by Kathleen Revis, Nat Geo Image Collection

Vintage photos of royal families from all over the world

Britain's royal family is famous for their style when celebrating new arrivals and marriages, and royal families from around the world are no exception—whatever the occasion.

Britain’s House of Windsor has had a festive few years, including the most recent celebration of the birth of a baby boy, son of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, better known as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. To the consternation of many royal-watchers, the couple chose to reveal the baby two days after the birth instead of presenting the baby at the maternity ward. This delay a broke a four-decade tradition of the public having immediate access to the newborn and mother.

In the last century, modern media has allowed the public unprecedented access to royal families during major life events. Prior to World War I, members of Britain’s royal family married privately in royal chapels or palaces. In an effort to strengthen their connection to the British people and minimize their relations with Germany after World War I, the royal family began using Westminster Abbey—a location that could house for more guests than a small royal chapel—as a wedding venue. The 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was the first to be televised, giving the wider public a view of the solemnity of the ceremony, the splendor of the queen's gown, and the magnificence of the crown jewels.

These grand celebrations and public presentations are by no means exclusive to the British crown, though. Elaborate ceremonies, costumes, and regalia have long marked the lives of royalty from countries of all shapes and sizes. These historic photos offer a glimpse of well-dressed royals from around the globe—some on their wedding days, some in their military attire, and some in traditional status-signifying garb—pulling back the veil of mystery that sometimes shrouds monarchs and their children. While some of the images are missing the date that they were taken, the embellishments of royal life still shine through, showing examples of royalty through the ages. (See Queen Elizabeth II’s rule in 15 pictures.)

This story was updated on May 8, 2019.

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