Celebration – Christmas at Sandringham

Sandringham in the winter

The history of the Sandringham Estate dates back to the time of Prince Albert, later known as King Edward VII, who was the eldest son of Queen Victoria.  In 1862, the Queen had purchased the property located in Norfolk, England for him shortly before his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863.  The Royal couple made Sandaringham their country home and stayed there frequently when they were not in London to fulfill their official royal duties.  Over the next 150 years the Sandringham Estate has been used continuously by four generations of the British Royal Family and is currently privately owned by Queen Elizabeth II.   (For additional information about the history of the Sandringham Estate, please click on the link)

In 1926, the Queen, then known as Princess Elizabeth, was just eight months old when she first accompanied her parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, on a visit to Sandringham to see her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary.  During the reign of King George V the annual tradition of spending Christmas at Sandringham was started and continued throughout the years of his reign until his death in 1936.  His son, King George VI, choose to continue the custom for another sixteen years until his own death at Sandringham in 1952.  Since that time, Queen Elizabeth has also chosen to spend the holiday season at Sandringham privately with her family but more importantly she uses the time for personal reflection on the anniversary of her father’s death in January and her own accession to the British throne.  Sandringham has become the official winter residence of the Queen every year from just before Christmas until sometime in the month of February.  She will spend the days privately with her family enjoying the beautiful grounds, hunting and riding.

The Queen will travel on the morning train from London to Sandringham a few days before Christmas to supervise the final holiday preparations and the members of the Royal Family will arrive at Sandringham House on Christmas Eve.  Even though this is a family celebration, strict protocol is observed and even the order of arrival is coordinated based on seniority determined by the line of succession with Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, arriving last since the Prince of Wales is the immediate heir to the throne.  Each of the Royal Family members has arrived at Sandringham with several pieces of luggage because they are expected to change outfits several times throughout each day of their stay for a variety of activities; such as afternoon tea, hunting or riding and formal dinners.  Finally, upon arrival at Sandringham, each person will be given an itinerary listing the events that will take place over the next few days with their scheduled times.

Sandringham - 2013 Queen Elizabeth traveling to Norfolk by train

On Christmas Eve, promptly at 4 pm, family members will gather for a traditional English tea which includes fresh baked scones and Earl Grey tea is served in the White Drawing Room.  Everyone will have freshen-up after their journey to Sandringham and after a brief rest they will have changed into beautiful tea dresses for the women and tweed suits for the men.  Standing in a place of prominence in the White Drawing Room will be a Norfolk spruce tree which has been cut from somewhere on the 1,000 acre Sandringham Estate and the younger members of the family will gather around to finish putting the ornaments and trimmings on the Christmas tree.

After the tea service, everyone will proceed into the Red Drawing Room to open the presents since the Queen prefers to have it done of Christmas Eve in order to reserve Christmas Day as a more solemn religious celebration.  Around the perimeter of the Red Drawing Room there are several trestle tables set up for each member of the Royal Family and, of course in keeping with tradition, the tables are organized in order of precedence and labeled with their names.  Despite the wealth of the Royal Family, inexpensive and humorous gifts are given and preferred over more expensive gifts.  Princess Diana found this out the hard way when after her marriage to Prince Charles and on her first Royal Christmas at Sandringham she bought cashmere sweaters and other expensive items for her new in-laws.

Xmas 4

After opening the presents, everyone will return to their rooms to change into formal clothes for dinner, women will wear elegant evening gowns with their best jewels and men will be dressed in black tie.  The dinner gong rings promptly at 8 pm to call guests for pre-dinner drinks.  Then at 8:15 pm the Queen will lead everyone into Sandringham’s formal dining room which is aglow with candlelight and the table is set with the finest china, silver and crystal.  The three-course dinner will be finished around 10 pm and then the Queen and the other ladies will move into another room for coffee while the Duke of Edinburgh will remain with the other men in the dining room for brandy but at the request of the Queen there is no cigarette or cigar smoking.  Afterwards the two groups will join together to possibly play cards or other games and the evening will end at around midnight when the Queen retires for the evening, strict protocol requires that everyone remains at the party until the Queen goes up to her bedroom.

Christmas Day starts relatively early for the Royal Family with a full English breakfast, usually consisting of bacon, sausages, kippers and kidneys and a variety of side dishes.  After eating, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will take a car while everyone else will walk to the nearby St. Mary Magdalene church to attend the 11 am Christmas service.  Along the path from Sandringham House to the church, people of the estate and neighboring villages will gather for a chance to see the Royal Family and offer their best wishes of “Happy Christmas”.  (For more information about the history and architecture of St. Mary Magdalene church, please click on the link to the Travel post about the Sandringham Estate)

Sandringham Christmas - 2013 Queen arriving at church    Sandringham Christmas - 2013 royals walk to church 1

After the church services, the Royal Family will return to Sandringham House to enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch that includes a Norfolk turkey and a selection of side dishes.  Then, after lunch everyone will gather at 3 pm to watch the Queen’s speech on television which is a long standing annual event broadcast on television for England and the British Commonwealth on Christmas Day, the Queen prefers to watch the broadcast in the privacy of her room.

Sandringham Christmas - dining table 1

The custom of the Christmas message was started by the Queen’s grandfather, King George V, when he gave the first one by radio in 1932 from Sandringham House where two small rooms were temporary converted into BBC radio broadcast rooms.  King George V continued to give three more Christmas Messages until 1935; he died less than a month later in 1936.  There was no Christmas message during 1936 from his successor, King Edward VIII, who had abdicated later that year after a brief reign.  King George VI gave his first Christmas Message in 1937 graciously thanking the British people for their support during the first year of his reign; there was no Christmas broadcast in 1938.  It wasn’t until 1939 and the start of World War II that the Christmas broadcast became an annual tradition.  At that time, King George VI gave a special message which offered comforting words to reassure the British people during the difficult times.  For the King’s final broadcast in 1951, the radio message was pre-recorded rather than delivered live due to his difficulty in speaking due to his prolonged illness.

Sandringham - 1934 King George V Royal Christmas Message    Sandringham - 1939 King George VI Royal Christmas Message

After the King’s death in February 1952, Queen Elizabeth II gave her first Christmas message later that same year.  She spoke of carrying on the tradition passed on by her grandfather and father, sitting at the same desk as they did, and asking for the nation to pray for her on the event of her coronation scheduled for the next summer.  The Queen continued the annual radio broadcast until 1957 when she made the first televised Christmas message.  Prior to 1960, the message was always broadcast live and then starting that year the speech was pre-recorded in advance to be played on Christmas Day.  Usually the location for the filming has been Buckingham Palace but other locations have been Windsor and Sandringham.  Throughout the years, with the exception of 1969 when no speech was given, the Queen has used the broadcast as a way to speak directly to her audience about world, national and even personal events of the past year.

Sandringham Christmas - Queen's address

After watching the Christmas Message broadcast the Royal family will play charades, board games or go for a walk around the grounds of the Sandringham Estate.  Later in the evening, an informal dinner is served and then perhaps more games or cards or simply spending time together relaxing before everyone retires for the evening.

The day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day in Britain and is traditionally when servants would receive gifts, a “Christmas Box”, from their employers.  The day at Sandringham usually begins with a kedgeree breakfast; it is a cooked fish dish made of boiled rice, parsley, hard-boiled eggs, curry powder, butter or cream.  After the meal, members of the Royal Family will participate in a traditional pheasant shoot.  The men are the only people who are allowed to take part in the shoot while ladies usually do not participate since they are customarily not allowed to use a gun in the presence of the queen. Once the shoot is over, everyone will start to leave to enjoy the rest of the holidays with other family members.  The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will remain at Sandringham for several more weeks until they depart sometime in February.

Celebration – The Bracebridge Dinner at the Ahwanhee Hotel

Bracebridge Dinner - present dayThe Bracebridge Dinner is a lovely holiday tradition that is held annually in Yosemite National Park every Christmas season.  The first Bracebridge took place back in 1927 and is still currently being held over 85 years later in the Yosemite Valley at the world renowned Ahwahnee Hotel.  Every year the grand dining room of the Ahwahnee is transformed into an 18th century English manor that is inspired by a 1822 Washington Irving story, “Bracebridge Hall” as told in his book “The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent”.  (Irving is also famous for another story called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and please click on the link for more information about that classic tale about the headless horseman)

Ahwanhee dining room - Bracebridge Dinner 1

The Bracebridge Dinner is a three hour pageant of theatrical and musical performances that includes a seven-course formal dinner.  The tradition was started by Don Tresidder, president of the Yosemite Park and Curry Company, to celebrate the first Christmas after the majestic Ahwahnee Hotel was opened in 1927.  The character of the Squire Bracebridge was played by Tresidder himself, the character of Lady Bracebridge was played by his wife Mary Curry and Ansel Adams (the famous photographer) played the court jester.

Bracebridge Dinner circa 1927    Ansel Adams as the jester 1

The Bracebridge was been held annually since 1927 with the exception of the years during World War II when the Ahwahnee Hotel was commissioned by the United States government for use as a Naval Hospital.  When the tradition resumed in 1946 several new chorale musical performances were added.  Then shortly after the 1948 Bracebridge, Don Tresidder died of a sudden heart attack.  Heartbroken at the loss of the prominent Yosemite resident there was much debate over whether the show would even continue or the possibly of eliminating the role of the Squire since the part had always been played by Tresidder.  It was finally determined that the character of the Squire would remain in the show but over the years the part of the Squire as narrator was eventually reduced to a smaller role.

Bracebridge Dinner - present day 1

Throughout the years, Ansel Adams went on to serve as the production’s musical director and later the part of Major Domo, the head of the Bracebridge household, was created especially for him and the part of the housekeeper was played by his wife Virginia Best Adams. Adams also served as the musical director and official photographer and he still continued performing in the Bracebridge until his retirement in 1973.  Eugene Fulton, who had been a member of the male chorus since 1934, took over as musical director in 1946 and after Adams retirement he became the producer of the show.  Sadly, Fulton died suddenly on Christmas Eve in 1978.  His wife, Anna Marie and his daughter, Andrea took over the production of the Bracebridge for the remaining performances that year.  Eventually Andrea went onto to become the show’s director as well as playing the role of the housekeeper.  Finally, in 2013 the lottery process which had been previously used to obtain tickets for the popular Bracebridge Dinner was eliminated and now reservations are accepted in the order in which they are received.

Ahwanhee Hotel in winter

The history of the Ahwanhee Hotel

The Ahwahneechee Native Americans had long settled in the area when the Mariposa Battalion, a California militia group, entered the Yosemite Valley in 1851 to fight in the Mariposa War caused by the 1849 California Gold Rush.  Shortly after, white settlers arrived to build homes and visitors came to enjoy spectacular views of El Captain, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.  In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed a federal bill in 1864 granting the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to State of California.  John Muir, a local naturalist with concerns for the protection of the environment, eventually lobbied for the creation of the Yosemite National Park which happened in 1890.

Visitors continued to be drawn to the beauty of Yosemite National Park and the demand for tourist accommodations steadily increased throughout the years.  In 1899 David and Jennie Curry arrived in the Yosemite Valley and soon developed several rustic cabins and campsites that became known as Curry Village.  Then, in 1917, the Yosemite Lodge was built near the base of Yosemite Falls and was the first of the Park’s traditional hotel style accommodations.

By the early 1920s, there was a need for more luxurious accommodations for the more wealthy and affluent tourists.  The Ahwanhee Hotel took eleven months to construct, cost over one million dollars to build and opened in July 1927.  It is a wonderful example of rustic elegance built in an Arts & Craft style of architecture which was very popular at the time.  It is constructed of 5,000 tons of granite, 1,000 tons of steel and 30,000 feet of wood and furnished with a unique blend of Art Deco and Native American decorating styles.

The Great Lounge of the Ahwanhee is 77 feet long and 51 feet wide with 24 foot high ceilings.  Other features of the room include 10 floor-to-ceiling windows topped by beautiful stained glass panels and there is also a massive stone fireplace with couches, chairs and tables that offers an inviting place for visitors to gather.  The room is decorated with Native American hand-woven baskets and massive wrought iron chandeliers.

Ahwanhee - Lounge

Other public rooms of the Ahwanhee include the Solarium which has massive windows on three sides of the room that have lovely views across the valley with Glacier Point in the distance.  (This area room is often used for wedding ceremonies and receptions as well as other special events)  The Mural Room is beautifully decorated with an impressive mural showing the various flowers and plants of Yosemite Valley.  The room is elegantly paneled in wood with a copper-hooded fireplace and French doors that open onto a patio and the nicely landscaped grounds.

Ahwanhee - Mural Room 1

One of the most impressive rooms of the Ahwanhee is the grand Dining Room which is 130 feet long, 51 feet wide and features a 34 foot ceiling supported by wooden beams made from sugar pine and supported by large granite stone columns, there are also floor-to-ceiling windows framed with stained glass panels.  The Ahwanhee Dining Room offers visitors the finest dining within Yosemite National Park and a more formal dress code is required.  (This room is where the annual Bracebridge Dinners are held during the Christmas season)

Ahwanhee - Dining Room

During World War II, the Ahwahnee Hotel was commissioned by the United States government for use as a Naval Hospital.  The famous Bracebridge Dinner was not held during that time and eventually the tradition resumed in 1946.  Over the years, the Ahwanhee added an outdoor swimming pool and modernized the hotel with elevators and a fire alarm system including smoke detectors and a sprinkler system.

For more information regarding the Ahwanhee Hotel and to make reservations, please see their website www.yosemitepark.com.  For information about planning a visit to Yosemite National Park, please see their website www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

Ahwanhee Hotel

Celebration – The Wedding of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier

In honor of Grace Kelly (born: November 12, 1929  died: September 14, 1982) I would like to take a look back to 1956 and her wedding to Prince Rainier III of Monaco which was then dubbed “the wedding of the century”.

In 1955, Grace Kelly had been invited to attend the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France because her latest film “The Country Girl” was being shown at the prestigious event; the next year she would receive the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in the film.  Grace had enjoyed the south of France when she had previously been there to film another movie, the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film “To Catch a Thief” costarring Cary Grant.  While on her European tour promote her latest film her publicist arranged to do a French magazine photo shoot for Paris Match at the Palace of Monaco where she was also scheduled to meet Prince Rainer.  Grace had tried to cancel the meeting due to numerous complications but she was encouraged keep the appointment despite the fact that she was unprepared.  It seems that her hotel had a power failure caused by a workers strike and she only had one dress pressed and ready to wear.  Unfortunately, the dress was not one of her best and it was a black silk taffeta printed with large flowers, a square neckline, long sleeves, dropped waist tied with a sash.  Since she had missed her salon appointment that day, her usually perfectly coiffured hair was severely pulled back with artificial flowers.  Finally, Grace arrived at the Palace to meet the charming Prince Rainer of the small 370 acre principality located near the south of France that had been ruled by the House of Grimaldi since 1297.  The Prince gave Grace a personal tour of the Palace gardens and his private zoo located on the grounds but it was far from an intimate meeting since they were accompanied by several photographers and members of the royal staff.

Grace Kelly first meeting with Prince Rainier - magazine article    Grace Kelly first meeting with Prince Rainier

Following this friendly first meeting, the Prince was impressed by Grace who was the glamorous Hollywood movie star and Grace thought that the Prince was a charming gentleman.  Afterwards, Grace returned to the United States to continue making movies.  The two began writing each other letters and through their correspondence they were allowed the chance to get to know each other.  As the months passed the royal chaplain of Monaco thought that the Prince had possibly found a potential wife and he encouraged him to continue his courtship of Grace.  Then, just before Christmas, the Prince accompanied by the chaplain travelled to the United States to visit with the Kelly family in Philadelphia.  This visit allowed the Prince and Grace to see each other again and the Kelly family was immediately charmed by their daughter’s suitor and also encouraged the match.  After Christmas the couple went to New York City to celebrate New Year’s Eve and that is when the Prince proposed and presented Grace with an engagement ring.  The Cartier ring had a 10.47 carat emerald diamond in a platinum setting with smaller baguette diamonds on each side.

Grace Kelly engagement to Prince Rainier    Grace Kelly's Cartier engagement ring

Immediately after her engagement was announced, Grace started planning for a spring wedding which would take place eight months later in Monaco.  There were in fact two wedding ceremonies, one was the required civil ceremony and the second one was a larger religious ceremony attended by 600 guests.  An estimated 30 million people watched the television coverage.  (This is an amazing statistic considering the fact that television was a relatively new media and remember this was before the 1981 marriage of Prince Charles and Diana.  For more information on regarding the British Royal Wedding, please see Part 4 of the series)

The Civil Ceremony

The civil ceremony of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly took place in the throne room of the Monaco Palace on April 18, 1956.  The required civil ceremony took place before the religious ceremony and was performed by the Monaco Minister of Justice, with the vows exchanged in French, and there were only 80 guests in attendance.  Grace wore a dress created by Helen Rose, the MGM studio costume designer, who also made the bridal dress for the religious ceremony which was performed the next day.  The dress for the civil ceremony was a pale pink taffeta with an overlay of cream colored Alencon lace designed with a fitted bodice, high collar and a flared skirt which she accessorized with gloves and a hat.  Prince Rainer wore striped trousers, a white vest and a black morning coat.

Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - civil ceremony

Grace Kelly civil ceremony dress 2    Grace Kelly civil ceremony dress 1

Immediately after the ceremony there was a celebration and the Prince along with his new Princess took the time to shake hands with the 3,000 citizens of Monaco that were their invited guests.  Later that same night, the couple attended an elegant gala which was held in their honor at the Monaco Opera House.  Grace wore a lovely Lanvin ballgown made of white silk organdy with a deep v-neck, high waistline with a full bustle and the dress was hand-embroidered and decorated with pearls, rhinestones and sequins.

The Religious Ceremony

The religious ceremony for Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly was held the day after the civil ceremony.  It took place on April 19, 1955 at the St. Nicholas Cathedral and was a high mass celebrated by the Bishop of Monaco with 600 guests in attendance including Cary Grant, David Niven, Ava Gardner and several international heads of state and other diplomats.  The church was decorated with floral arrangements of white lilacs, hydrangeas, lilies and snapdragons.

Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - religious service    Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - religious service 1

The Matron of Honor was Grace’s sister, Peggy, and there were also six bridesmaids.  They all wore yellow silk taffeta dresses with a yellow organdy overlay purchased from the Neiman Marcus department store and made by Priscilla Kidder (later owner of the successful bridal clothing line of Priscilla of Boston).  To complete the wedding party there were six junior attendants, four girls and two boys, which were all dressed in white.

Grace Kelly with her bridesmaids

After the ceremony, Prince Rainier and Grace rode from the church through the streets back to the Palace in a cream and black Rolls Royce convertible that was a gift from the people of Monaco.  The Palace’s Court of Honor was the location of a grand reception which featured a six tier wedding cake that was cut using the Prince’s sword.

Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - wedding cake 1    Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly - reception

The Wedding Dress

As a gift to Grace Kelly from the MGM studio, Helen Rose, their costume designer created a beautiful bridal dress for her wedding to Prince Rainier and has remained one of the most famous and iconic wedding dress for decades.  (… that is until 2011 and the wedding dress Kate Middleton wore when she married Prince William.  It has been said that Grace’s bridal dress was the inspiration and had a direct influence on the design of Kate’s dress.  For more information on Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding, please see British Royal Wedding – Part 4)

Grace Kelly and Kate Middleton's wedding dresses

Grace’s wedding dress was a stunning creation which was made at the MGM studios and it took six weeks using three dozen seamstresses and cost an estimated $7200.00.  The dress used twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, one hundred yards of silk netting, tulle, peau de soie and antique Brussels lace that was over 125 years old.  (peau de soie is a soft silk fabric of satin weave which has a dull finish)  The elegant dress was designed with a high collar, long sleeves, a fitted bodice, a full skirt and a train that measured three feet in length.  Additionally, the bodice had a structured under bodice for support and two petticoats were worn underneath to provide fullness to the skirt.

Grace Kelly wedding dress front    Grace Kelly wedding dress back 1

A Juliet cap was also made to compliment the dress and worn on the back of the head with three points at the hairline and a circular shape in the back.  The headpiece used the same pearl embroidered lace as the bodice and was stretched over a wire frame.  It was decorated with seed pearls and small wax orange blossoms.  Attached to the headpiece was a circular wedding veil which was waist length in the front and then gradually longer towards the back.  The veil used 90 yards of tulle and is edged with lace but was left sheer in the front to provide an unobstructed view of Grace’s face.

Grace Kelly wedding dress bodice

Grace completed her bridal ensemble with shoes custom made by David Evins, a leading American shoe maker that Grace had previously worked with.  The wedding shoes were covered with lace to match the dress and had a 2 ½ inch heels.  Grace also requested that a copper penny be added to her right shoe, a traditional good luck charm for brides, and one was sewn into the arch of the shoe.

Grace Kelly bridal shoes

Finally, on her wedding day Grace carried a small bouquet made of Lilies of the Valley and a small Bible.  The bible was a gift from a family friend and a custom cover was made by the MGM wardrobe department of silk faille with a lace applique overlay embellished with seed pearls.

Grace Kelly wedding bible    Grace Kelly wedding bible 1

Prince Rainier wore a Napoleonic styled military uniform which he personally designed.

Wedding of Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly 1

Celebration – Teddy Bear Day

Children around the world have received and cherished their beloved teddy bears throughout the years.  These teddy bears could range from the expensive and classic Steiff bears to the contemporary Boyds bears or iconic storybook bears such as Paddington Bear, Winnie-the-Pooh or Smokey the Bear.  Sometimes these tattered teddy bears become family heirlooms passed down to future generations.  So, in honor of Teddy Bear Day, this post will discuss the history of the Teddy Bear.

Teddy's BearThe teddy bear is named for the 26th President of the United States, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt.  Roosevelt had become known for his love of the natural wonders and wildlife of the United States.  Legend has it that on a bear hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902 Roosevelt found a wounded small bear and he ordered that the bear should be spared from being killed.  The story was depicted in a political cartoon, “Drawing the Line in Mississippi” by Clifford Berryman, which appeared on November 16, 1902 in the Washington Post.

Soon after the cartoon was published, Morris Michtom was inspired by the illustration and his wife, Rose, created a stuffed toy version of “Teddy’s bear” that he put for sale in the window of his candy store in Brooklyn, New York.  The little teddy bear received instant notice and Michtom started to mass–produce the stuffed toys and eventually he founded the Ideal Toy Co.

Steiff teddy bearMeanwhile at the same time, the Steiff Company had created their own bear that they showcased at the 1903 Toy Show in Germany.  Margarete Steiff had created a mohair fabric bear with button eyes, an embroidered nose and a body that was stuffed with wood shavings and had full articulated head, arms and legs.  An order was placed by a buyer for the George Borgfeldt & Company in New York which proved to be an instant success.

Within a few years other manufacturers began to produce their own versions of the teddy bear.  The early models of teddy bears were made to resemble real bears with small eyes and longer noses.  Gradually, the modern teddy bears were made with smaller noses and larger more “friendly” eyes in a variety of fabrics such as synthetic furs, cottons, satins, silks, denim and canvas.  Also different types of bears were made such as polar bears and pandas.  (Speaking of pandas, I still have an old stuffed wind-up musical panda bear that I received from my godparents when I was a child which bring back wonderful memories of falling asleep to the soothing sound of Brahms Lullaby)

Interesting Teddy Bear Facts

  • In 1834, the first bear in literary form, it was the fairytale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” which was written by Robert Southey.
  • In 1908, the English J.K. Farnell Company, which originally produced tea cosies and pincushions, started to manufacture the first British teddy bears.
  • With the tragic sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage in 1912 the Steiff Company created a black stuffed bear that was given as a mourning gift to those that lost their loved ones.
  • In 1920, the first Rupert Bear story of the Little Lost Bear, which was written and illustrated by Mary Tourtel, appeared in the UK newspaper, the Daily Express.
  • In 1926, the first A.A. Milne book of the Winnie-the-Pooh series was published and the character has remained one of the most famous and loved bears of all times.  In 1959, Disney acquired the rights to the Winnie the Pooh stories and later, in 1975, they released their first animated film based on the character.  (For more information about A.A. Milne, please click on the link)
  • In 1944, Smokey the Bear was first used as the mascot of the U.S. Forest Fire Prevention campaign.
  • In 1958, the first Michael Bond book of the Paddington Bear series was published, the character proved to be another popular bear.

Speaking of bears, as previously mentioned in other posts on this website, I have a large collection of Boyds Bears stuffed animals and figurines.  For more information about this collection, please click on the following links: Displaying a Boyds Bear Collection Part One & Two.  Also be sure to check out the additional post, Displaying a Boyds Bear Village.

Celebration – British Royal Weddings (Part 4)

To conclude the four part series on British Royal Weddings are two of the most famous weddings in recent history.  The first was the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and it became known as the “wedding of the century”.  The second was the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011 which also captured the world’s attention almost 30 years later.  Both weddings were equally grand and filled with the traditions, customs and spectacular pageantry that make British royal weddings so wonderfully unique.

Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer (later the Princess of Wales)

Date and location:  July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Prince Charles and Diana Wedding 2    Prince Charles and Dian Wedding 1

For several years prior to Prince Charles wedding there had been much speculation as to whether the long time bachelor would ever settle down.  Then in 1980, Lady Diana Spencer caught the attention of the Prince and quickly after a six month courtship he proposed to her and their engagement was officially announced on February 24, 1981 at Buckingham Palace.  This occasion was the first time the world saw Diana’s stunning engagement ring, which was a large oval 12 carat blue Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 diamonds and in white gold setting.

Since it was the wedding of the heir to the British throne, it took an extensive amount of preparations for the state occasion.  St. Paul’s Cathedral was selected as the site for the ceremony instead of Westminster Abbey because it would hold the 3,500 guests. Royal Note: Westminster Abbey had been the site of many royal weddings over the past decades; most notably Prince Charles’ grandparents, Prince George (later King George VI) and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 and his parent’s, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) and Prince Phillip in 1947.  (For more information of these two weddings, please click on the link to Part Three of the British Royal Wedding series

On the wedding day of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, over two million people lined the parade route from Buckingham Palace and Clarence House to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also, as with most high profile events, security was a major concern and over 4,000 police officers with an additional 2,000 military officers were on duty. There was an estimated 750 million people worldwide that watched the wedding ceremony.

At St. Paul’s Cathedral, crowned or elected heads of state from around the world and all the representatives from the British Commonweaths had gathered.  Prince Charles arrived from Buckingham Palace in the State Landau accompanied by his brother, Prince Andrew. Of course, the last to arrive was Diana who was traveling from Clarence House with her father, the Earl of Spencer, in the grand Glass Coach.  Then, after a brief moment to compose herself and have the dress designers straighten her wedding dress, Diana and her father walked down the nave to the altar.  The Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, presided over the traditional Church of England wedding service.  In the months leading up to the wedding date, the bridal couple had choose to omit the word “obey” from the vows, this had caused much controversy and also received worldwide media coverage since this was the first time it had been done for a Royal wedding.

One of the most closely guarded secrets of the royal wedding was Diana’s wedding dress.  Much has been written about the dress which was designed by the David and Elizabeth Emanuel who were relatively unknown at the time.  The famous dress that Diana wore on her wedding day was an ivory silk taffeta gown trimmed with antique lace decorated with 10,000 pearls and sequins, the dress also featured a 25 foot long train.  To complete her wedding attire, Diana wore the beautiful Spencer tiara, the precious family heirloom was considered her “something borrowed”.  The tiara was originally given to Viscountess Althorp, Cynthia Spencer, who was Diana’s paternal grandmother as a wedding gift. (Special Note: Diana’s wedding dress and the Spencer Tiara are displayed at Althorp House, the ancestral seat of the Spencer family in Suffork, during the summer months as part of a special exhibit called “Diana: A Celebration”)

Spencer tiara

Diana’s bridal bouquet was designed by Longmans Florist; who was the same florist that made the Queen’s bouquet for her wedding in 1947.  Diana’s bouquet was very large cascading style, 42” long and 15” wide.  It was made of fragrant gardenias, stephanotis, freesia, Odontoglossum orchids, lilies of the valley, the Earl of Mountbatten roses, ivy and myrtle.  The Mountbatten roses were used as a tribute to Prince Charles Uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who died tragically in 1979.  The sprig of myrtle was added to the bouquet in keeping with the royal tradition.

Diana's wedding bouquet 1

After the conclusion of the wedding ceremony, Prince Charles and Princess Diana traveled to Buckingham Palace from St. Paul’s Cathedral in the State Landau for an intimate wedding breakfast attended by only 120 guests.  Photographs of the couple, the bridal party and the immediate family were taken in the grand Throne Room before Prince Charles and Princess Diana made the traditional appearance on the balcony to greet the massive crowd gathered at the front of Buckingham Palace which cheered wildly as the bridal couple walked onto the balcony and their spontaneously kiss was the first for a British Royal wedding!!

Later in the afternoon of the wedding day, Prince Charles and Princess Diana rode once again in the State Landau traveling from Buckingham Palace to Waterloo Station. Upon arriving at the station, the Royal Train was waiting to take the bridal couple to the Mountbatten home, Broadlands, to start their honeymoon.  (Royal Note: this was also where Prince Charles’ parents spent their wedding night)  Later, Prince Charles and Princess Diana flew to Gibraltar where they boarded the Royal Yacht, Britannia, to embark on an eleven day Mediterranean cruise and then afterwards they went to Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Sadly, the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana which had started out as a fairytale later turned out to be a very unhappy union.  The couple’s formal separation was officially announced in 1992 and in 1996 the divorce was finalized.  Princess Diana died a year later in 1997 in a car crash in Paris, France.

Prince William to Catherine (Kate) Middleton

Date and location:  April 29, 2011 at Westminster Abbey in London

Prince WIlliam and Catherine wedding 1    Prince William and Catherine wedding 2

Another more recent British Royal Wedding that also captured the world’s attention is the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton.  Prince William and Kate met at the University of St. Andrews and dated for several years.  The Prince went on to Sandhurst Academy, was commissioned as an officer in the Blues and Royals regiment before transferring to the RAF taking a job as a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot stationed in Angelsey, an island off the coast of Wales.  In October 2010, the Prince proposed to Kate while on a private vacation in Kenya and surprisingly presented her with his mother’s engagement ring.  (Special Note: Prince Harry, the groom’s brother, had inherited the ring after the death of their mother, Diana the Princess of Wales. Several years later when he learned that his brother was to propose to Kate, Prince Harry graciously gave the ring to Prince William)  The engagement was officially announced in November 2010 to the media at St. James Palace.

The wedding was not officially considered a state occasion and for this reason the 1900 people invited to the ceremony were mainly family and friends of the bridal couple but protocol still called for British Commonwealth representatives included as well as members of the diplomatic corps, religious leaders and people from the Prince’s various charities.

On the wedding day, Prince William and his brother, Prince Harry left Clarence House in a Bentley State Limousine to travel to Westminster Abbey. Prince William wore the uniform of an Irish Guard and he wore the Order of the Garter star with his Royal Air Force wings and Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Medal attached to a blue riband. Next, the members of the Middleton family and the British Royal family arrived with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive just before the bridal party.  Kate and her father left the Goring Hotel in a Phantom VI Rolls Royce to travel to the Abbey, they had been staying there in the days leading up to the wedding.  Kate’s sister, Pippa Middleton was waiting at the bottom of the steps of the Abbey to assist the bride into the Abbey, she caused quite a media sensation with her form fitting dress nearly overshadowing the bride!

Like Princess Diana almost 30 years earlier, Kate’s wedding dress, had remained a closely guarded secret prior to the wedding day. The dress was designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen was made of satin that gathered gently at the waist with slightly padded hips that formed a bustle in the back and a 9 foot train.  The stunning dress was instantly compared to that of another royal bride, Princess Grace of Monaco.  (If you are interesting in seeing the wedding dress, please click on the link the Wedding of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier)

In keeping with the bridal tradition of “something old, new, borrowed and blue, Kate’s bridal attire included the following items:  vintage lace was also incorporated into the dress for “something old” as well as a blue ribbon sewn into the bodice for “something blue”.  The “something new” was a set of earrings especially commissioned by Kate’s parents for her wedding day and the design came from the newly created Middleton family crest.  To complete her bridal attire, Kate wore a veil made of silk tulle which was embroidered with lace and held in place by the Cartier Scroll Tiara, which was the “something borrowed” from the Queen.

On her wedding day, Kate carried a bouquet the florist Shane Connolly created which included such flowers as the lily of the valley, Sweet William, hyacinth, ivy and lastly the tradition sprig of myrtle that is traditionally used in all royal wedding bouquet.  Also in keeping with another Royal tradition, later in the day the wedding bouquet was returned to Westminster Abbey and placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.  (For more information on this tradition started in 1923 by Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Prince William’s beloved  great grandmother, please click on the link to Part Three of the British Royal Wedding Series)

For anyone that watched the wedding television broadcast that was shown in over 180 countries, the interior of Westminster Abbey was beautifully decorated with trees placed along the aisle and at the entrance, six English maples were used in the church and two Hornbeam trees were used at the entrance to create a natural archway.  After the ceremony the trees were taken to Prince Charles’ country estate, Highgrove, and planted as a living memorial to mark the wedding.


After the conclusion of the wedding service, the Queen hosted a wedding luncheon reception at Buckingham Palace for approximately 600 invited guests.  In addition to the wedding cake and per Prince William’s request a special groom’s cake was created from chocolate bisquits and made according to a Royal Family recipe which was a favorite dessert when the Prince was a child. As another wedding tradition dictated, the bridal couple appeared on the balcony to greet the waiting crowd gathered in front of Buckingham Palace and they surprised everyone with not one but two kisses!!

The new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge left the Palace after the wedding luncheon and travel the short distance to Clarence House to relax and change for the evening reception. (Royal Note: The car that the bridal couple drove in was a blue two seat Aston Martin DB6 Volante convertible which had been a gift from Queen Elizabeth to Prince Charles, the groom’s father, on the occasion of his 21st birthday)  Later, 300 invited quests returned to Buckingham Palace for a special private wedding dinner hosted by the Prince of Wales. The event was followed by dancing and finished with a small firework display on the palace grounds.

The Duke and Duchess left on their honeymoon ten days after the wedding, the destination was a secluded villa on a private island in the Seychelles and the time was limited due to Prince William’s RAF duties.

For more information about additional British Royal Weddings, please click of the following links:  Part One – Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  Part Two – Prince Albert (later King Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark and Prince George (later King George V) to Princess Mary of Teck.  Part Three – Prince Albert (later King George VI) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) to Prince Phillip.