Christmas Presents Given by Royalty
Although many people nowadays affect to despise the good old custom of giving presents at Christmas time, the members of the royal family of England show no sympathy with the new fad. Indeed present-giving seems likely to always continue a leading feature of the royal Christmas, for both the King and the Queen are great upholders of the custom, and their Majesties are kept busy for several weeks before the festive season making a careful selection of Christmas presents form the many novelties sent for their inspection by the tradespeople of London and Windsor. These are brought to Buckingham Palace and arranged on tables in the reception-rooms, which resemble nothing so much as smart bazaars by the time all the goods are laid out, each marked in plain figures that leave no doubt as to their exact price. The King and Queen, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and most of the members of the royal family make the majority of their Christmas purchases in this manner, although some of the younger royalties are to be met in the West End shops buying their Christmas gifts like all the rest of the world.
The late King favoured jewelry and novelties in the form of tie-pins, studs, enamelled buttons, jewelled cigar and cigarette holders, walking-sticks, snuff-cases, and rare editions of valuable books for giving to friends and relations at Christmas time; while his Majesty’s public and private bounty to retainers was wide-reaching. The King’s Christmas doles (given by the lord High Almoner at the Royal Almony, St. James’ Palace, each Christmas, and known as the minor bounty, and the Royal Gate Alms) provided for no less than a thousand old people chosen by clergymen all over England and Wales.
QUEEN’S GIFTS OF OLD LACE
The Queen gives beautiful embroidery, old lace, fans and costly Russian enamels to her friends as gifts; and apropos of this, a story is told concerning an agate frog of small dimensions with diamond eyes given to a lady by her Majesty a little while ago. A friend having admired it, the recipient ordered a replica to be made, and, to her horror and surprise, got a bill for eighty-eight guineas for the trifle.
Of great interest are the special gifts designed by her Majesty for old friends, these take the form of ivory and tortoise-shell crochet and knitting pins, surmounted with a diamond and enamelled crown, while below is an A in diamonds.
Snapshots taken by her Majesty, mounted and inscribed with the Queen’s autograph and Christmas greetings, are other favourite presents. To the cottagers and servants at Sandringham her Majesty is especially generous, giving the children on the estate scarlet cloaks and toys, while the servants receive black silk dresses and books from their royal mistress. Perhaps the most carefully-chosen of all the Queen’s Christmas presents are the toys destined for her little grandchildren. These are presented on Christmas afternoon, off the Queen’s own Christmas tree, the gifts being handed to her Majesty by a gentleman-in-waiting, and the Queen bestowing every one herself. Nor are these the only little ones who receive toys from her Majesty at Christmas.
During the weeks preceding Christmas Day royal omnibuses are often to be seen outside the various hospitals, while royal footmen deliver great packages of gifts bearing a label inscribed in her Majesty’s own handwriting: “Toys from Queen Alexandra, for the little children at the hospital.”
The Princess of Wales also gives largely to hospitals, her Christmas gifts taking the form of quantities of linen, also clothes of her own making and toys from her children’s nursery. Like the Duchess of Argyll, the Princess favors artistic Christmas gifts, and buys quantities of rich embroideries, carvings, pottery, water colors and enamels for distribution.
Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 25 December 1910: p. 2
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: As is often the way when the American press reports on the activities of royalty, certain inaccuracies have crept in. King Edward VII had died on 6 May 1910, so he is correctly referred to as “the late King.” However, at the date of this printing, there was no Prince and Princess of Wales to shop at the Buckingham Palace bazaar. Edward, who became Prince of Wales on 23 June 1910 was unmarried. Given the context of the article, it is apparent that the Prince and Princess of Wales are actually King George V and Queen Mary. One suspects that this was an article written during the lifetime of King Edward VII and slightly touched up for a later printing, carelessly leaving in the outmoded information.
What is accurate is the royal fondness for bijoux novelties such as tie-pins and cigarette cases and carved hardstone animals from the house of Fabergé, although that distinguished atelier is not mentioned by name. Queen Alexandra commissioned Fabergé to create hardstone portraits of some of the King’s favourite animals at Sandringham. Queen Mary was even more of an enthusiast for Fabergé’s trifles in enamel and gemstones. See this link for information and photographs about the Royal Trust Collection of Fabergé.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.