Christmas comes to Windsor Castle with festive trees and Queen’s panto costumes

The Berkshire royal residence’s Christmas displays have opened up to visitors.

Christmas comes to Windsor Castle with festive trees and Queen’s panto costumes

Windsor Castle’s celebration of Christmas has opened to visitors, with a 20ft-high tree installed in the grand St George’s Hall and the Queen’s pantomime costumes on show.

Tourists exploring the historic Berkshire royal residence will see the State Apartments transformed and decorated with shimmering Christmas trees, twinkling lights and festive garlands.

As part of a special Noel exhibition, intricate outfits made for a teenage Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret when they took to the stage in an Old Mother Red Riding Boots pantomime have gone on display for the first time.

She also donned a chintz shirt, trousers and sun hat for a seaside scene, in which Margaret wore a blue taffeta dress overlaid with cream-coloured lace and cream lace bloomers to play The Honourable Lucinda Fairfax.

They are being shown alongside the outfits the princesses wore for an earlier war-time Aladdin pantomime, which have been exhibited previously.

Christmas at Windsor
Royal Collection Trust curator Caroline de Guitaut puts the finishing touches to The Princesses’ Pantomimes costume display at Windsor Castle (Steve Parsons/PA)

Ms de Guitaut said Princess Elizabeth played Lady Christina, because, given her age, it was thought it was more appropriate for her to play a female lead rather than a male one.

“There was sort of a tradition actually for women quite often to play male leads in pantomimes. We can take that from our own experience of going to pantomimes as children,” she said.

Christmas at Windsor
The full line-up of Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret’s costumes (Steve Parsons/PA)

“But by the time of 1944, the final pantomime, which was Old Mother Red Riding Boots, Her Majesty was 18 years old and I think the feeling was that it would be more appropriate for her to play a female lead instead of a male lead by that stage”.

The costumes are on show in the castle’s Waterloo Chamber, where the pantomimes were originally performed.

Old Mother Red Riding Boots was specially created to combine elements of a number of different pantomimes and fairy-tales, and was written and produced by Hubert Tanner, headmaster of the nearby Royal Windsor School.

Christmas at Windsor
The costumes on display, far left (Steve Parsons/PA)

It was performed three times in December 1944, and for each performance tickets were made available for audiences of between 300 and 600 people.

Specially discounted seats were offered to members of the armed forces and dress rehearsals were attended by staff of the Ministry of Works and Planning who assisted with the technical arrangements for each production.

Ms de Guitaut said: “It certainly feels like a very unique moment in the Queen’s life and certainly in the life of the castle during that very interesting period of the Second World War.”

Christmas at Windsor Castle
Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, dressed in costumes for the 1943 performance of Aladdin, with headmaster Hubert Tanner (Royal Collection/Queen Elizabeth II 2021/PA)

Families can also enjoy drop-in festive storytelling sessions on December 4, 11, 18, 20 and 23 in the state apartments.

Great Kitchen Tours will run from December 30 to January 9, giving visitors access to the oldest working kitchen in the country, which is not usually open to the public.

Christmas at Windsor
A member of the Royal Collection Trust staff decorates a Christmas tree in the castle (Steve Parsons/PA)

Christmas at Windsor Castle is from November 25 to January 3 2022. The Princesses’ Pantomimes display is from November 25 to January 31 2022.

Tickets and visitor information can be found at www.rct.uk or +44 (030) 123 7304.

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