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Press release

Queen Victoria’s Christmas - A ‘chandelier Christmas tree’ and family gifts go on display for the first time

Release date: Friday, 30 November 2012

William Coden, the Younger, Queen Victoria's Christmas Tree, 1851

William Coden, the Younger, Queen Victoria's Christmas Tree, 1851 Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty The Queen 2012

From 1 December, visitors to Windsor Castle can see how Queen Victoria and her young family celebrated Christmas at home. A glittering chandelier decorated to resemble a hanging Christmas tree and the State Dining Room laid for a seasonal feast are part of the Castle’s traditional festive display this year.  The display also includes Christmas presents exchanged by members of Queen Victoria’s family, some on show for the first time. 

Monarchs have celebrated Christmas at Windsor since the 12th century, but Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are most associated with the Castle at this time of year.  The Prince popularised the Christmas tree in Britain, although he displayed them rather differently from how we do today.  In 1860, a visitor to the Castle described how the rooms ‘were lighted up with Christmas trees hung from the ceiling’.  Inspired by such contemporary accounts, the magnificent chandelier in the Octagon Dining Room will be dressed with garlands of pine, gold and silver maple leaves and gold and silver ribbons.

In the German tradition, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve. Presents were laid out on tables, each of which had a Christmas tree at its centre.  In 1850 Queen Victoria wrote, ‘The 7 children were then taken to their tree, jumping and shouting with joy over their toys and other presents: the boys could think of nothing but the sword we had given them and Bertie some of the armour, which however he complained, pinched him.’

Among the royal gifts on display for the first time are a miniature of Queen Victoria as a seven-year-old girl, given to Prince Albert by his wife for Christmas in 1841, and a book of poetry by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, inscribed with the words, ‘To My beloved Albert from his ever devoted & loving wife VR, Christmas 1859.’  Prince Albert was a great admirer of Tennyson’s work, encouraging his appointment as Poet Laureate in 1850. 

In the Castle’s State Dining Room, the table will be laid with pieces from the spectacular Grand Service, commissioned by George IV from royal goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.  The 400-piece silver-gilt service is still in use today, including at the recent State Banquet for The Amir of the State of Kuwait at Windsor Castle.  The centrepiece of the table setting was designed by Prince Albert and reflects his and Queen Victoria’s love of dogs.  It is decorated with little sculptures of four of the royal couple’s favourite pets – Eos, the Prince’s devoted greyhound, the dachshund Waldman, and the Highland terriers Cairnach and Islay.

On Sunday, 9 and 16 December and Saturday, 22 December, families visiting the Castle are invited to join a professional storyteller in the State Apartments to hear how Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children celebrated Christmas.  A festive activity trail and art sessions will take place on Saturday, 29 and Sunday, 30 December. (Included in admission to the Castle. Booking is not required.) 

Visitors can also book on an Exclusive Evening Tour of the Castle, a behind-the-ropes guided visit to the State Apartments outside public opening hours.  Tours are available on 14, 15, 21 and 22 December, and include the Victorian Family Christmas display, a glass of champagne and a mince pie.

The Victorian Family Christmas display is part of a visit to Windsor Castle from 1 December 2012 until 6 January 2013. The Castle is open daily, except 25 and 26 December.   Visitor information and tickets are available from www.royalcollection.org.uk


For further information, please contact Hanae Tsuji, Royal Collection Trust Press Office, +44 (0)20 7 839 1377 or [email protected]