This Christmas, visitors can soak up the atmosphere at Windsor Castle as it celebrates the season with traditional decorations and festive fare.
From 14 December until 7 January, Queen Victoria’s spectacular dinner service will form the centrepiece of a dazzling display of 19th-century silver on the 50-foot-long dining table in the Waterloo Chamber. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert spent many holidays at Windsor and on Christmas Day would hold a lavish feast - a visitor to the royal kitchens in 1860 described seeing at least 50 turkeys and a 350 lb baron of beef roasting at the fires. Made in 1862 by the firm of royal goldsmiths Garrard & Co., the Victorian silver display includes statuettes of Britannia, King Arthur and St George, candelabra celebrating the Arts and Sciences, and grand tureens and dessert stands.
From 3 December, visitors can see the Christmas tree from Windsor Great Park on display in St. George’s Hall. The baubles and crowns decorating the tree can be purchased in the Royal Collection shops, along with unusual gifts and a range of luxury seasonal foods, including mince pies, Christmas cakes and special preserves.
Extending the festive season, families visiting on 29 and 30 December can discover what life was like at Windsor Castle on a cold winter’s day hundreds of years ago. A special activity trail will reveal how the Castle’s residents kept warm through clever building design, beautiful tapestries and roaring fires. In the Moat Education Room children can join in with the art-based ‘Winter at Windsor’ activities to create their own candle decorations.
(The activities take place between 11:00 and 15:00 on 29 and 30 December. They are suitable for children between 5 and 11 years of age and are run on a drop-in basis.)
Windsor Castle is open daily, except on 25 and 26 December. Visitor information is available from www.royalcollection.org.uk or 020 7766 7304. Standard admission prices apply. A family ticket (two adults and three under 17s) costs £36.50. All individual tickets entitle you to register for a year’s unlimited admission.
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Notes to Editors:
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are closely associated with Christmas traditions and spent many holidays at Windsor Castle:
• Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, is credited with popularising the decorated Christmas tree, after it was introduced to England at Windsor towards the end of the 18th century by Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III.
• In Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s day, Christmas trees were displayed on linen-covered tables or hung from the ceiling in place of the usual chandeliers, and dressed with coloured wax candles and artificial snow. Gifts, toys and sweets were heaped around the trees or hung on the branches, to be presented on Christmas Eve when the candles were lit.
• The scale of catering at Windsor is indicated by a recipe for Christmas mincemeat, which included 82 lb currants, 60 lb orange and lemon peel, 2 lb cinnamon and 24 bottles of brandy. Even the kitchen staff were given turkey, plum pudding, mince pies and roasted chestnuts, and all the members of the Household were presented with pies or meat to take home with them.