Here is my special contribution to The Royal W.
On Christmas Day 1800, there was a party held at Queens Lodge, Windsor by Queen Charlotte, the German born wife of King George III. For this party, something new and rarely seen before was erected at the lodge….. a Christmas Tree. Dr John Watkins, Queen Charlotte’s biographer, described the festive scene:
In the middle of the room stood an immense tub with a yew tree placed in it, from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles. After the company had walked around and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets which it bore together with a toy and then all returned home, quite delighted.
Following Queen Charlotte’s introduction of Christmas trees to the Royal Court, they gradually became a Royal institution long before the December tradition spread to the general populace. Queen Adelaide, Wife of King William IV, always had a Christmas tree and to the delight of her family too, a young Princess Victoria recorded in her diary her joy at the sight of the Christmas Tree at Kensington on Christmas Day 1832.
Back to Windsor Castle though, although the tradition of the Windsor tree was started back in 1800 by Queen Charlotte it wasn’t until 1848 that it became popularised. The Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle was featured in The Illustrated London News of 1848 and Prince Albert began presenting large numbers of trees to schools and Army barracks as of Christmas 1848.
For those thinking that the Windsor tree is a tradition that has consequently been forgotten about, think again. Every year, the 25 foot decorated Christmas Tree is erected immediately behind the Queen Victoria statue which stands at the entrance to Windsor Castle, the tree comes from the Crown Estates at Windsor Great Park. This custom does not however date back to 1800, in fact it dates only to 1947, the first year that Oslo’s gift tree was erected in Trafalgar Square as a thank you for Britain’s assistance to Norway in the Second World War.
Aside from the annual Christmas Tree in Windsor, a few days before Christmas a Carol Service is held around the Windsor Tree. The Choir of St Georges Chapel and local churches combine with each other to make this an annual event to remember, they are also joined by a regimental band from the Guards.
So if you want to witness a piece of history that dates back over 200 years then head to Windsor this Christmas, it will certainly be a Christmas Tree that you will remember for a very long time to come! Seasons Greetings.