A Christmas tree is suspended from the ceiling at Windsor Castle in a recreation of one of Queen Victoria’s festive traditions. Visitors will see how the Queen and Prince Albert celebrated Christmas with their young family as the State Dining Room and Octagon Dining Room are transformed with the tree, a display of Victorian festive dining – and a reconstruction of the couple’s Christmas gift tables.
The Christmas tree was popularised in Britain by Prince Albert, although he displayed some of them rather differently from how we do today. Those traditions have inspired this year’s display of an artificial tree with swags, ribbons, replica candles and imitation snow, suspended from the Octagon Dining Room ceiling, where the chandelier usually hangs.
In the German tradition, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve and presents were laid out on tables, each of which had a Christmas tree at its centre. Two gift tables will be recreated with presents exchanged by Victoria and Albert. Among the highlights is a painting by Sir Charles Eastlake commissioned by Victoria in 1844 as a gift for Albert, and a sculpture of Princess Beatrice as a baby lying in a shell, given to the Queen by Prince Albert for Christmas 1858.
In the Castle’s State Dining Room, the table will be laid for a Victorian Christmas feast with a magnificent porcelain dessert service by Minton of Staffordshire. Known as the Victoria Service, the set was purchased by the Queen at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and includes four porcelain figures of the four seasons, ice pails, cream and bon-bon dishes, and a pair of silver-gilt sauceboats shaped like sleighs.
Christmas trees from the Windsor Great Park will also be on display in St George’s Hall and the Crimson Drawing Room from 5 December. They will be decorated with crown-shaped baubles produced exclusively for the Royal Collection and available to purchase from www.royalcollection.org.uk/shop.
The Victorian Christmas displays at Windsor Castle will be on show from 26 November 2011 to 8 January 2012.
Please note the Exclusive Evening Tours of Windsor Castle for December are now fully booked.