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Victorian Christmas at Windsor Castle

[Image: The Royal Collection © 2010 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II]

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are closely associated with Christmas traditions at Windsor Castle. Prince Albert is credited with popularising decorated trees, 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 royal children made homemade cards to give to members of the Household, and the family would go skating or play festive games introduced by Prince Albert from Germany.

You can celebrate the festive season in style with a visit to Windsor Castle. Special displays and activities at Windsor Castle take on a Victorian theme from 10 December 2010 until 5 January 2011.

To celebrate the Christmas period, the table in the Castle’s magnificent State Dining Room will be dressed with pieces from the Minton ‘Victoria’ dessert service. The service was purchased by Queen Victoria at the Great Exhibition of 1851, thereafter taking the monarch’s name. It attracted much attention at the time and was described by the influential Art Journal as being of ‘exceeding beauty’. Porcelain custard cups, bonbon dishes and a centrepiece decorated with seasonal images will be displayed alongside glittering silver-gilt candlesticks and festive fruit and flowers.

The State Dining Room is at the heart of the Castle’s Semi-State Apartments, created for George IV in the 1820s as the King’s suite of private rooms. Today it is used by The Queen for entertaining, in particular during Royal Ascot week and at ‘dine and sleep’ parties during Easter Court at Windsor.

Christmas trees from the Windsor Great Park will be displayed in the Castle from 6 December 2010. Windsor is closely associated with the tradition of the Christmas tree, and Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, is credited with popularizing tree decorations. Festive decorations, including baubles in the shape of a crown, can be purchased from the Castle’s shops along with a host of other unique Royal Collection gifts.

Families visiting the Castle on 18 and 19 December (11:00-15:00) can follow a special Christmas activity trail and learn about the feasts and festivities of Christmases past and royal Christmases today. Children can make their own Christmas decorations, cards and crackers to take home.

For a special treat or Christmas gift, an Exclusive Evening Tour offers the chance to go ‘behind the ropes’ once the Castle has closed its doors to the public. The tour takes visitors through the sumptuous State Apartments in the company of an expert guide and ends with a glass of champagne and a festive mince pie. It is available on 11, 17, 18, 20, 21 December, price £50.00. For further information or to make a booking, please telephone +44 (0)20 7766 7322 or visit www.royalcollection.org.uk.

Windsor Castle is open daily, except 25 and 26 December. Visitor information is available from www.royalcollection.org.uk or +44 (0)20 7766 7304