How Queen Victoria and Prince Albert Made Christmas Trees a Holiday Staple
Before you discount the Victorian era for its notoriously prudish etiquette and over-the-top bustle skirts (truly the ultimate bump-its), you'd be wise to read up on all of the cultural traditions cemented during Queen Victoria's reign. After all, were it not for the 19th-century monarch, we might not celebrate Christmas with a well-appointed fir tree.
Though people across the globe had been decorating temples and domestic interiors with evergreen flora for centuries, the holiday tradition in its modern form originated with medieval Germans. The idea first spread to England through Queen Charlotte, Queen Victoria's mother—but it was Victoria's consort Prince Albert who brought them into the mainstream in 1848.
The 1848 engraving of the royal family decorating a Christmas tree.
The prince sent decorated trees to schools and army barracks around Windsor, but it was likely a visual that made British citizens tree-crazy. An engraving published in 1848 featured the Queen, the Prince, and their children decorating a tree. Given the family-focused culture of the era, it wasn't long before Christmas trees became a key component of a middle-class family's holiday celebrations.
Unlike today's royals, who aren't particularly hands-on with the palace Christmas decor, Victoria and Albert were very into the tradition. "Queen Victoria and Prince Albert brought the tree into Windsor Castle on Christmas Eve and they would decorate it themselves," Royal Collection curator Kathryn Jones explained to the BBC. "They would light the candles and put gingerbread on the tree and the children would be brought in."
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip look at a Christmas tree during the filming of a 1969 television special about the royal family.
Popularizing the Christmas tree is a pretty big coup, but that's not the only trend Queen Victoria and Prince Albert can claim to have initiated. Victoria is largely credited with paving the way for the white wedding dress, and also laid the groundwork for a modern monarchy, establishing protocols at the first State Opening of Parliament in the new Palace of Westminster that royals follow to this day, as well as supporting organizations as a patron.
Indeed, buried beneath that voluminous bustle skirt was a fascinating leader.
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors