We’re starting to feel quite festive here at the Royal Post! We have a fun series of posts coming up including royal Christmas cards, Christmas at Sandringham, and other royal traditions. Stay tuned!
To kick off, let’s take a look at Diana’s first Christmas as Princess of Wales. The previous year she had spent Christmas at Althorp with her family, and visited Charles at Sandringham on the first of January. In 1981 she was Princess of Wales, and the second highest ranked lady in the Kingdom after the Queen.
Diana helped kick off the festivities in London by officially turning on the Christmas lights on Regent Street on November 18th, 1981. Lucky for us, it’s now on YouTube. Here’s a link.
Interesting fact – this year Camilla turned on the Christmas lights at Burlington Arcade, a short walk away from Regent Street. At Regent Street the lights were turned on by Bill Nighy, Ashley Jensen, Kelly Clarkson, Matt Cardle and Emma Bunton. I’m sure they would have loved a Kate appearance, but the Palace is carefully crafting her entrance to public life and her role is not yet as high profile as it was for Diana. I’m sure they are also trying to limit her public appearances to more serious events while she and William and still living in Wales for their two years of relative normalcy before they become full time royals.
For their first Christmas card together, Diana and Charles chose one of their wedding photographs.
The card reads, ‘With all good wishes for Christmas and the New Year’. The front cover includes twin gilt embossed royal crests. Perhaps William and Kate will follow suit and also select a wedding picture. Wouldn’t it be great if it was a never-before-seen one? If they don’t select a wedding photo, our second guess would be that they choose a candid, laughing photo from the Canada tour. Perhaps one from PEI in the rain with their clear umbrellas, or one after the boat race when they are on the dock in their lifevests.
As per tradition, Diana joined the rest of the Royal family At Sandringham. In Andrew Morton’s Book Diana: Her True Story, it is reported that at her first Christmas Diana didn’t know that the royal family gave each other joke-y gifts rather than thoughtful, more precious items. She was embarrassed to be out of the joke when she gave out her gifts of cashmere sweaters while the others handed out whoopie cushions. Oh dear!
However, it is interesting to note that this was not Diana’s first Christmas at Sandringham. Having grown up on the estate (her family lived in Park House on the grounds, which is also where Diana’s mother grew up), the Spencer kids would join the Windsor kids to watch the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Christmas day. As Diana recalled in Diana: Her True Story, ‘We hated it so much. We hated going over there. The atmosphere was always very strange when we went there and I used to kick and fight anyone who tried to make us go over there and Daddy was most insistent because it was rude. I said I didn’t want to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for the third year running.”
Here are Charles and Diana on Christmas day at the church at Sandringham. Interestingly, this is also where Diana (and Princess Eugenie) was christened.
Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find any photos of the walk from Sandringham house to the church in 1981 (an annual Christmas highlight – the hats! The coats!), but we are very much looking forward to this year’s walk. Who thinks Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will be on the agenda this year?