The Queen isn't know for wild personal extravagance - but when it comes to her Christmas decorations, she can certainly push the festive boat out.
This year, Windsor Castle, now her primary residence, is already set for the festive season, as 'multiple rooms' have been decorated by her army of staff, with a full month to go.
Every year, a 20 ft fir tree is cut down from Windsor Great Park, and set up in the castle's huge St George's Hall, a tradition that's extended from the days of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert - the royal who originally introduced the concept of Christmas trees to Britain.
Previously, the tree had been a middle-European tradition, but the German-born Prince wasn't willing to give it up.
According to the Royal Collection Trust, “It is thought that Christmas trees have been sourced from the Great Park for Windsor Castle since the reign of Queen Victoria.”
The huge tree is always decorated with over 3000 lights and hundreds of glass ornaments - although the Queen reportedly frowns on tinsel.
This year, the Castle's crimson drawing room also features a red and gold-decorated tree. It's decorated with white fairy-lights, gold brocade and red glass vintage baubles and topped with a Victorian fairy-doll wearing red and gold robes. Another tree is topped by a similar doll wearing golden robes.
Festive garlands wind down the Grand Staircase, woven with red berries and golden ornaments, and the famed statues of knights on horseback are softened by the addition of festive greenery under their hooves.
This year, too, as part of a special Noel exhibition, special outfits made for the teenage Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret when they appeared in a wartime Old Mother Red Riding Boots pantomime, will be displayed for the first time.
Elizabeth, then 18, wore a long-sleeved pink satin and lace dress to play Lady Christina Sherwood for the production at Christmas 1944. She also wore a chintz shirt, trousers and sun hat for a seaside scene, and Margaret wore a blue taffeta dress with cream lace bloomers to play The Honourable Lucinda Fairfax. They will be shown with the outfits the princesses wore for an earlier war-time Aladdin pantomime.
Caroline de Guitaut, curator of the displays, said "it’s just a lovely thing to celebrate at this festive time of year and remembering the spirit in which these pantomimes were originally put together to bring cheer and a little bit of light relief to life in what was a very dark time.”
The costumes are displayed in the castle’s Waterloo Chamber, where the pantomimes were originally performed.
This year, the castle has opened up to visitors more than ever before, with the semi-state rooms, including the crimson drawing room, available to view. They were created as private apartments for George IV and now are used by members of the royal family for official entertaining.
There will also be unprecedented tours of the castle's working kitchen, (Dec 30-Jan 9) which has been in use for 750 years.
Meanwhile, the state dining room is resplendent with glittering silver cutlery and tableware, and golden ferns, intertwined with leaves and baubles, draped from the ceiling in an opulent display. the table dressing is from the Grand Service commissioned by George IV and still used on formal occasions at the castle.
Pre-pandemic, the Queen would spend the Christmas period at Sandringham with Prince Philip . There, she always kept her Christmas decorations up till February 6, to mark the anniversary of her father's death.
This year, however, battling ill health, it's more than likely she will remain at Windsor, close to Prince Edward and wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, and within easy reach of London.
Besides, with decorations like this, it would be a terrible shame to miss them.
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