A poignant collection of royal family Christmas cards has come to light and documents the dramatic and turbulent changes in their lives.

The official cards were from Charles and Diana and the Queen and Prince Philip to a member of staff at Buckingham Palace from 1981 to 1998.

The photos inside the cards show the Prince and Princess of Wales from happy newlyweds to young parents with their growing family.

There are pictures of Prince William as an adorable baby and one of him a year later being cradled by Diana on a swing with Charles stood next to them.

Another Christmas card photo shows William and new-born Harry with their proud parents and then as young boys sitting astride a donkey.

One card from 1987 shows the Queen and Prince Philip with their four grandchildren: Peter and Zara Phillips and William and Harry.

A later group shot of the extended family, sent as a card in 1998, shows the two princes a year after their mother was killed in the Paris car crash.

The same picture accidentally captures a youthful Zara Phillips posing with her eyes shut.

Other cards highlight the Queen and Prince Philip in a variety of poses, at home and out in the countryside with their corgis.

The collection of 17 cards is now being sold by the unnamed former member of staff at Dukes auctioneers in Dorchester with a conservative estimate of £600.

Auctioneer Rupert Perry-Warnes said: “It’s a fascinating collection and includes quite intimate pictures of the royal family.

“You can see how they progress through the years and how their lives change.

“The cards were collected by a lady who used to work at Buckingham Palace and I understand they were all given to her as a member of staff.

“They are all hand-signed and should be of great interest to anyone who likes the royal family.”

The auction takes place on December 13 at Duke’s auctioneers.