A seven-metre Christmas tree, organically grown in Windsor Great Park, will take up residence in the State Apartments at Windsor Castle for visitors to enjoy from 9 December until 5 January, Twelfth Night. The Castle is closely associated with the tradition of the Christmas tree, which was probably introduced to England at Windsor towards the end of the 18th century by Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.
Queen Charlotte's Christmas entertainment for children, with 'a pyramid of toys upon the table', is recorded by a contemporary writer as follows:
A fir tree, about as high again as any of us, lighted all over with small tapers, several little wax dolls among the branches in different places, and strings of almonds and raisins alternately tied from one to the other, with skipping ropes for the boys, and each bigger girl had muslin for a frock, a muslin handkerchief, and a fan, and a sash, all prettily done up in a handkerchief, and a pretty necklace and earrings besides.
Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, is credited with popularising the decorated Christmas tree. At Windsor each of the royal family's sitting rooms was furnished with a tree covered with sweets and coloured wax candles. Traditionally gifts were laid out on linen-covered tables beside the tree.
An extract from Queen Victoria's journal of 24 December 1850 records:
The 7 children were taken to their tree, jumping & shouting with joy over their toys & other presents; the Boys could think of nothing but the swords we had given them & Bertie of some of the armour, which however he complained, pinched him!
During the last war, the Royal Family and Household staged Christmas pantomimes in the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle, with the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose in the lead roles. The stage sets, drawn on the Castle's bare walls, were uncovered during restoration work following the devastating fire of 1992.
Windsor Castle is open daily, except 25 and 26 December. Among the many features that can be enjoyed during a visit are Queen Mary's Dolls' House (the most famous dolls' house in the world), the State Apartments, George IV's private apartments (only open during the winter months) and St George's Chapel, the burial place of ten sovereigns. The Castle's shops will be selling a range of exclusive Christmas gifts. Details of admission are available fromwww.royal.gov.uk or 020 7321 2233.
Further information is available from Public Relations and Marketing, the Royal Collection, telephone: 020 7839 1377, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org