There's a belief that the holiday season doesn't officially start in England until each hall at Windsor Castle is fully decked out. Every year in November, the Royal Collection Trust decorates the almost century-old royal residence with fragrant garlands, thousands of twinkling lights, and a spectacular 20-feet Christmas tree located in St George’s Hall. The impressive spruce can take upwards of two days to fully decorate with hundreds of ornaments and lights.
With so much time spent dressing up the castle, it may come as a shock to find out that the Queen actually prefers to spend her holidays at Sandringham Estate. However, the stunning decorations at Windsor Castle have long been a tradition in the royal family that traces back to the reign of King George III.
Legend has it that Queen Charlotte, who was raised in Germany, adored her home country's custom of setting up a yew branch in the house at Christmas. While this ritual was typically private, Queen Charlotte decided to make it a public celebration in 1800 that both the royal family and members of the court could attend. The Queen and her ladies-in-waiting worked together to decorate the festive yew bough in one of the most spectacular rooms at Windsor Castle in time for the party. Dr. John Watkins, one of Queen Charlotte’s biographers, described the magical scene in Memoirs of Her Most Excellent Majesty Sophia-Charlotte as:
"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."
From that night on, Christmas trees became a holiday must for members of high society and the royal family. However, much of the general public in England did not adopt it until Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, began encouraging others to partake in the Christmas tradition. During the 1840s, Albert traveled to different schools and Army barracks across the country and presented them with their own trees to decorate. He also worked with local newspapers and magazines, like Illustrated London News and Cassell’s Magazine, to publish detailed descriptions of the royal decorations and trees displayed at Windsor and other palaces. By the 1850s, decorating Christmas trees became a beloved tradition celebrated by the masses in Britain.
Throughout the centuries, the royal family has continued to erect multiple trees throughout the grounds of Windsor Castle as a part of the holidays. Along with the impressive garlands and light displays, the Royal Collection Trust also puts together displays for visitors to learn more about the monarchy.
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