Kensington Palace celebrates a Glorious Georgian Christmas
On Christmas day, 1736, Queen Caroline sat down at Kensington Palace to a dinner of ‘minced pyes, plum broth, roasted chyne of pork, and roast turkey and water cresses.’ Sound familiar? Her rather traditional festive meal was also accompanied by ‘squabs (pigeons) with noodles and asparagus,’ washed down with some ‘turbot and lobster broiled.’ The Queen’s tipple of choice? A hot chocolate with a splash of brandy. The Georgian Christmas: sometimes surprisingly familiar, and sometimes very different to our own.
This December at Kensington Palace, the glittering court of Queen Caroline and King George II springs to life once more at Kensington Palace, celebrating the festive season, Georgian style. The palace will be dressed to impress, decked with period-inspired decorations, holly and ivy, and a stunning 25ft Christmas tree on the front lawn, to greet visitors as they enter, to discover a royal Christmas from the past being celebrated within.
In the magnificent King’s State Apartments, the table will be set for a Christmas dinner fit for a Queen. Inspired by a surviving menu book from 1737, which diligently lists all the meals served to the King and Queen throughout the year at Kensington Palace, a table decked with elaborate napkin sculptures will show all the dishes Queen Caroline enjoyed on Christmas day – from the ‘salmagundy and pickles’ (salad!) to the ‘four easterlings ragoud’ (waterfowl stew!)
Visitors will be able to sample Queen Caroline’s hot chocolate for themselves as the Kensington Palace café serves up a hot drink with a twist – chocolate made to an eighteenth century recipe – with an optional nip of brandy! On selected dates throughout December, palace food historians will be preparing the drink in person, accompanied by a free talk on the history of royal chocolate drinking.
To add even more Christmas cheer, the palace will be filled with live music and performances throughout the festive season. Music by Handel – favoured composer of the Georgian monarchs – will be played on authentic historic instruments in the State Apartments every Saturday. Finally, from December 27th until the Twelfth Night, all the rules of the court will be overturned, as visitors are invited by the Lord of Misrule to become King (of the bean) or Queen (of the pea) of the palace and take a place on the throne in full Georgian garb!
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Christmas events at Kensington Palace: dates and prices:
Twelfth Night celebrations
Weekends: 29 October – 21 December
Daily 27 December – 5 Jan
Part of a palace ticket
Take part in a popular Georgian game to become King of the Bean or Queen of the Pea.
Glorious Georgian music
Saturdays 29 November, 6, 13 & 20 December, 12- 3pm
Part of a palace ticket
Enjoy music popular with the royal court, including works by Handel who taught George II's children.
Glorious Georgian hot chocolate tasting sessions
10, 11, 13, 17 & 18 December
This event is free with a palace ticket, but will be ticketed on the day
Sample the drink enjoyed by Queen Caroline and discover its historic recipe with Historic Royal Palaces food historian Marc Meltonville.
Christmas with the King
6 December, 10:30- 13:00
Adults £1/Children £20
Join us to discover how the Georgians celebrated Christmas through music, drama, storytelling and taste testing workshops.
Christmas carol singing
8 & 15 December, 18:00- 19:30
Adults £10/Children £5/Members 10% discount
Take part in a festive evening of Georgian inspired carol singing with Alberti Brass.
Kensington Palace tickets and prices:
For visits 1 March 2014 - 28 February 2015
Adult £16.50 / £15.40 online
Concession £13.70 / £12.54
Child (under 16 - must be accompanied by an adult) FREE
Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. These palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Registered charity number 1068852. For more information, visit hrp.org.uk