Christmas at Windsor Castle

Lighted Christmas Tree - Octagon Dining Room at Windsor Castle

In 1844, long after the events in Notorious Vow and Notorious Match, Diana and Vivien attended the young Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, at Windsor Castle.  The countess and marchioness were astonished to see a tree suspended from the ceiling of the Octagon Dining Room, where the chandelier is normally hung.

A Christmas tree, the Prince Consort explained.

This is from the Royal Collection’s website at :

In the German tradition, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve and presents were laid out on tables, each of which had a Christmas tree at its centre.  Two gift tables will be recreated with presents exchanged by Victoria and Albert.  Among the highlights is a painting by Sir Charles Eastlake commissioned by Victoria in 1844 as a gift for Albert, and a sculpture of Princess Beatrice as a baby lying in a shell, given to the Queen by Prince Albert for Christmas 1858.

In the Castle’s State Dining Room, the table will be laid for a Victorian Christmas feast with a magnificent porcelain dessert service by Minton of Staffordshire.  Known as the Victoria Service, the set was purchased by the Queen at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and includes four porcelain figures of the four seasons, ice pails, cream and bon-bon dishes, and a pair of silver-gilt sauceboats shaped like sleighs.

This special display has been recreated for the public’s viewing and ends on January 8th.

Porcelain Dessert Service - State Dining Room at Windsor Castle

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And now, an excerpt from my Gilded Age historical thriller, with a strong romantic element:

“Come and look at this,” he said, pointing to the water.  “Tell me what you see.”

She got up from the seat to do as she was bid, shakily going to his side.  But she was too frightened to lean over the water, so O’calan knelt close to where she sat, holding out his hand to hers. She looked down, placing her weight onto his, trusting his discretion.

“What do you see?” he asked.

She peered over the side, looking into the water which was clear in the still cove.  Below the water was a line of wood, gilded to white, that had been the fence from that long-ago tryst.

“It can’t be,” she breathed, recognizing the place where they had lain together many years ago.  The place where they made love was in a watery grave, never to be resurrected.  She could not look away from the terrible sight, and nearly lost her balance.

He gripped her waist just in time, steadying her as she sank down onto the seat beside him.

“Why did you bring me here, to this place?” she asked, miserably.

But he seemed far away, the direction of the dam holding his attention.  “The lake is too big for the dam.  The waterline was never meant to be this far, or this high.”

Sarah felt a chill.  She had never seen O’calan so troubled.  “You must warn the club.”

“Even if they wanted to, there is nothing they can do.”

“What do you mean?”

“That man Parke showed me where the drainage pipes had been removed.”

The rowboat remained stationary in the still water, and Sarah felt her breath catch with the enormity of what they had seen. 

“I did not mean to frighten you, Sarah,” O’calan said.  “But you are the only one, apart from me, to realize the magnitude of what has been done here.”

The historical event is the Johnstown Flood.  In a place barely remembered, but whose tragedy America will never forget.