The Queen’s Telegram is a relatively new tradition in a very traditional country, namely the United Kingdom. Here in the states, when a person reaches the ripe old age of 100, they get to received birthday greeting in the form of Willard Scott of NBC’s Today Show drooling over them on national television telling them how good they look and adding a few snippets of biographical information. It might go something like this: a picture comes up on the screen displaying (usually) some somnambulant individual with a very glazed look on their face

Willard Scott’s voice

“Ooh, there’s Rosa Mae Farquat, she’s 100 years old today, doesn’t she look good? Rosa likes to start each day with a bowl of mush and some lukewarm tea. She still gets around on her own and attributes her longevity to a strict diet of high fiber foods. Rosa’s lived in Boon Dock, Kentucky all her life. Happy birthday Rosa “

Now, I don’t know about you fine folks out there but this all goes on sometime between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM and my eyes and ears are just not ready for it. In fact, I’d rather be filled in on the details of the latest suicide bombing, earthquake, tornado, or whatever other disaster, manmade or natural, that has occurred. Having to look at anywhere between one and four centenarians at those hours of the morning just does not inspire me.

The more traditional and definitely more tasteful way our British cousins have chosen to honor this select group of people is more to my liking. When a person reaches the age of 100, they receive a telegram, that’s right, a telegram, not an E-mail, from none other than the Queen marking the auspicious occasion. While I don’t know what the specific wording is, (help me out here British noders), it certainly seems like a more dignified and fitting way to mark the occasion.

Inspiration from
The tradition of receiving a telegram from the monarch on the 100th birthday of a British (or Commonwealth) citizen dates back to 1917 and the reign of George V. They are also sent out for Diamond wedding anniversaries.

These bicycle-delivered telegrams were written by a secretary of the Queen. Originally, there were very few sent out, as life expectancy was much lower at the beginning of the 20th century. There are now a few thousand a year.

In 1982 telegrams were stopped within Britain, and restricted abroad to special occasions. A secondary message system using the Post Office remained, and the Queen switched to using this for her congratulatory messages. To keep it special, she changed the style of the letter, as if it were written by her instead.

Compare a 1958 telegram

"The Queen is much interested to hear that you are celebrating your 100th birthday and sends you warm congratulations and good wishes."

and a 1999 message

"I am pleased to know that you are celebrating your 100th birthday. I send my congratulations and best wishes to you on such a special occasion."

Messages are sent out for a 105th birthday and then one a year, and for 65th and 70th anniversaries and then one a year.

The message itself is now a glossy printed affair in a blue envelope, with a coat of arms and scanned signature of the Queen, along with a photo.

I will never get a telegram from the monarch because

1 - The monarchy won't exist by the time I've been married 60 years or have my 100th birthday

2 - I won't live to a hundred

3 - Nobody would live with me for 60 years.

much info from

I look forward to being proved wrong about any of my 3 points above; When I'm 100 I'll check everything9 and realise I was wrong.

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