What do you get the monarch who has everything? How about a pair of tortoises or a couple of sloths? They’re just two of the unusual live presents offered to The Queen in the last forty years. And with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge about to be deluged with offerings from wellwishers for the birth of their second child, the spotlight is back on the gifts that royalty receives and the rules that surround their acceptance.
Given that they are about to start the sleepless nights phase again, the Cambridges might not be in a position to ask to borrow an unusual gift once received by the Prince of Wales, who was left a donation of eight pillows in the will of a wealthy farmer. Prince Charles could also cause a fight in the Aston Villa-loving household of his eldest son by lending Prince George and his new sister or brother the Middlesborough football shirt he was given during a public engagement several years ago.
However, it is The Queen who has received the most unusual presents on the list. As well as the sloths and tortoises she has also been gifted an elephant, a canary and a pair of black beavers. These are often looked after by London Zoo. Other unusual presents are loaned to organisations who can make good use of them – the British Museum is looking after a Maori canoe from the government of New Zealand for The Queen.
The British Monarchy website lays out in detail the rules surrounding the presents that the Royal Family can and will accept. It states that the basic principle is that nothing, whether a physical present of the offer of hospitality, should be accepted if it would in anyway place a member of the Royal Family under an obligation to the donors.
Anything offered by a ‘commercial enterprise’ should be declined unless it’s a memento of an official engagement. Likewise, presents given by individuals should be returned if there are concerns about the motives of the person giving it. Offerings from public bodies can be accepted in connection with official engagements or to mark special occasions. With this, presents given during official trips abroad should be accepted or declined using the same criteria.
Any day now, the newest Prince or Princess of Cambridge will have to start adhering to those rules as the many gifts that will be sent to the baby and their family are scrutinized, and either accepted or declined. The most unusual among them will no doubt make headlines of their own and earn a place in the very unusual history of royal gift giving. We shall have to wait and see what gifts are presented to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as the due date gets closer.