Christmas is just around the corner – hurray!- so we thought we’d take a moment to peak into what Christmas 1949 looked like for the British Royals.
Why 1949? Well, we recently stumbled across a letter from the Queen to Princess Elizabeth, written from Buckingham Palace on December 21 1949. The letter is included in The Selected Letters of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. It’s quite newsy and gives a a rather illuminating look inside the innerworkings of the royal family that year from the Queen Mum’s perspective. Everything from ‘feeling quite gaga with Christmas preparations’ (which I’m sure we can all relate to) to a visit and hissy fit from the Duke of Windsor is covered. Do read on!
21 December 1949
My Darling Angel,
This is a little letter to wish you a very happy Xmas. I am so glad that you are to spend it with Philip, tho’ we shall miss you horribly. The first Xmas without our darling daughter- but never mind, it is quite right to be with the hub of your universe!
I went to see Charles yesterday & he seemed in very good form. I think that his teeth are worrying him a bit, but otherwise he is very well. Of course a rather violent attack such as he had, takes a little time to get over, and he may be a few days yet before he is absolutely back to form.
Miss Turner is mad about him, and I think it was a good thing to have her here, as it was rather a terrifying responsibility for Nannie alone. She really has been very good & quietly coping.
I love the picture of Clarence House. It is very attractive and thank you so very much. Darling. I’ve had trouble over what to send you out for a Xmas present. I shall send you a small present & keep my other more useful ones here.
Papa seems well but gets a bit tired with all the worries – Uncle David [the Duke of Windsor] came & had one of his violent yelling conversations, stamping up & down, the room, & very unfairly saying that because Papa wouldn’t (and couldn’t) do a certain thing, Papa must hate him. So unfair, because Papa is so unscrupulously fair & thoughtful & honest about all that has happened. It’s so much easier to yell & pull down & criticize, than to restrain & build & think right – isn’t it.
I am feeling quite gaga with Xmas preparations! On Sunday we did all the Royal Lodge servants & gardeners & policemen etc & then went to Windsor & did Mrs. Bruce [housekeeper] & Lucking [foreman] & the housemaids & Simpson [Head Gardener] etc. On Friday we had the servants ball at Windsor. – We had ’20 questions’ & ‘Ignorance is Bliss’- great fun. Then the presents for everybody here on Monday! Then the servants ball here last night, with a show including Jimmy Edwards & yes!! Frank Howerd! He is exactly the same off stage as on, oh yes, come now, ladies & gentlemen – etc!I danced with Evitts [yeoman of the plate pantry]– we had an impassioned talk about the footmen – with Hailey [page], bending over me kindly in a waltz, and an endless dance with Lance [footman], & my dress was too long, & he stepped on it every other twirl.
Then we had a Paul Jones & I danced with a tool-maker from the outskirts of London, nephew of one of our charladies, he cheered me by saying that he loved his work, & had a grand ‘guvnor’, & then I was claimed by a smart but seedy looking individual , who said in a fruity voice that he had just had a letter from Philip saying that the weather was lovely in Malta – you know the frenzied conversations one has with utter strangers! But, after keen questioning, I found that he really belonged to Dickie [Mountbatten], & had lived at Chester Street!
Then I had a samba with Jack Crisp, everyone else stood round & watched, except for some swoopers & twirlers who executed the most magnificent bonga-bongas all around us. But it went quite well – & I think that everyone seemed happy.
Darling Lillibet I do miss you so much – but I love to think that you are having sun & fun & above all a change & above all a look into another form of life.
Papa & I were so lucky, because we had tried so many different ways of life – We had night club life madly for a few years, but also mixed with dinners & country house visits, & big games shooting in Africa, & visits to Paris & Oslo & Belgrade & Rome & Brussels & Australia & MALTA, and out of the welter,, one gradually found one’s feet & head. You are so young and you are also ‘finding out’ – & I am sure that your life in Malta must be one of the ‘finds’.
Lots of love darling & so many good wishes for a very happy Xmas, from your very loving
King George VI and the Queen must have left London shortly after this letter was written since they spent Christmas of 1949 at Sandringham. The King’s Christmas address was broadcast from the estate that year, and in it he reassured people of his recovery from illness and expressed his gratitude to the United States of America for its sympathy and help in Britain’s effort towards recovery (at the time, Britain was the largest beneficiary of the Marshall Plan). source
For some more insights into Christmas 1949, we have this gem of an article that was published on December 8, 1949. It gives some more info and speculation on the family members who were to be included in the festivities: it was Prince Charles’ second Christmas, Princess Alexandra celebrated her 13th birthday on Christmas day that year (this year she will celebrate her 78th birthday) and Queen Mary traditionally took on the job of filling stockings on Christmas Eve.
A popular song that year was “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” and one gift that we know was opened that year was this gem-set cigarette case from Cartier. It was a present for Princess Margaret from the king. The inscription reads ‘To Margaret from her very devoted Papa GR Christmas 1949′. It sold for over 100,000 pounds at auction in 2006. Perhaps Lillibet got one, too?
Despite some family shenanigans and Lillibet off in Malta, it sounds like quite a cozy and festive Christmas, right?
If you’d like to see, we rounded up a few past Christmas posts you might enjoy: