Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Book Review: A Royal Christmas

“A Royal Christmas”, by Jeremy Archer. (Elliott & Thompson) 312 pages,  36 illustrations.

How did the royal family spend Christmas?  Jeremy Archer has delved in the royal archives to give us the personal thoughts of the royals during the Christmas period. With extracts from the diaries of Queen Victoria, George V, Queen Mary, the Duke of Windsor and many others, some never published before, as well as letters and diaries of members of the court, it makes fascinating reading.
Organised thematically, it covers such topics as Christmas and conflict, Christmas pastimes, festive feasts, the Christmas broadcasts and a look at how the courtiers viewed Christmas in the royal household. The wartime entries make especially poignant reading. “Rather sad without a tree or anything but one does not feel in a festive mood,” Queen Mary wrote in her diary in 1914.  Some interesting facts emerge as well – did you know that a pie containing 100 woodcocks was sent as a gift by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland until 1931?
In Victorian times tableaux and pageants formed a great part of the festivities, both at home and abroad, providing gorgeous pictures of the royal children - little  Princes Georg and Friedrich Christian of Saxony dressed, respectively, as one of St Nicholas’s helpers and a Christmas tree in 1903;  Prince Ludwig of Bavaria as Father Christmas in 1919; Karl Borwin of Mecklenburg-Strelitz as a star, 1891.  Presents, of course, were extremely important and chosen with the utmost care and it was considered bad form to remove them before they had been admired.
The text is in ‘bite-sized’ pieces too, so you can dip in and out of it at will. The perfect treat for a winter’s evening.

Coryne Hall

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