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A glimpse at how the royal family celebrated Christmas through the ages

Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree, 1851. Photo: PA

The festive traditions of the royal family from favourite Christmas cuisine to touching personal gifts are to be explored in a new book.

A Royal Christmas, published by the Royal Collection, looks back at how Britain’s royalty has celebrated through the generations.

A Royal Christmas examines the history of royal Christmases. Credit: Royal Collection Trust/Queen Elizabeth II/PA

Christmas dinner menus will feature in the illustrated book, along with more than 150 objects, photographs and documents from the Royal Collection and the Royal Archives, many published for the first time.

Queen Victoria’s Christmas fare in 1899 was printed on an elaborately decorated menu, written in French and headed “Her Majesty’s Dinner”.

Menu for Queen, Victoria’s dinner, Christmas Day, 1899. Credit: PA

It included numerous courses including roast beef, mince pies and plum pudding, as well as an indulgent buffet of Baron of Beef, Boar’s Head, Game Pie, Woodcock Pie, Brawn, Roast Fowl and Tongue.

King George IV was partial to a plum broth on Christmas Day, made using large quantities of port, brandy, madeira, sherry and claret, while medieval monarchs dined on roast swan and gilded peacocks.

Henry II ate boar’s head, pickled in brine and stuffed, braised and roasted, at his Christmas banquets.

Royal Collection Trust staff apply the finishing touches to a 20ft Nordmann fir tree in St George’s Hall in Windsor Castle in 2017 Credit: PA

The work also examines the royal family’s influence on Christmas customs, such as the trees first brought by Queen Charlotte from her native Germany and the roast turkey popularised by King Edward VII.

Royal gifts detailed in the book include a jewelled brooch, given to Queen Victoria by husband Prince Albert in 1841, which featured an enamel miniature portrait of their first child, Victoria, Princess Royal, in the guise of a cherub.

Cherub brooch given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert for Christmas in 1841. Credit: PA

Christmas cards were first produced in the UK in the 1840s, and the royal family’s love of the festive season meant they were quick to adopt the new trend.

As well as handmade cards by Queen Victoria’s children, the book includes Christmas cards by the Windsor generation of royals featuring photographs of a young Princess Elizabeth, now Queen, and her sister Princess Margaret.

Chrismas card featuring Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret in 1939. Credit: PA

In the wartime years, Elizabeth and Margaret took part in a series of Christmas pantomimes at Windsor Castle.

They are pictured performing in Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin and Old Mother Red Riding Boots, an original combination of the best parts of different pantomimes.

Pantomime outfits worn by Princess Elizabeth in a 1943 production of Aladdin. Credit: PA

The book also charts the history of the monarch’s Christmas Broadcast, watched each year by millions of people around the world.

The Queen delivering her Christmas broadcast from the State Dining Room of Buckingham Palace. Credit: PA
The royal family heading to church at Sandringham on Christmas Day last year. Credit: PA

A Royal Christmas is available from October 18 from royalcollection.org.uk/shop and Royal Collection shops for £9.95, and at various bookshops for £12.95.