Sunday, December 23, 2018

Royal Snow

From Royal Central:
The onset of winter provides another opportunity to look again at the links between the many fascinating outdoor pastimes and pursuits enjoyed by royalty, which I touched on in my article of December 2017, Snow and Royalty. Whilst the German Christmas was much popularised by Prince Albert, the preference of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort to spend Christmas at Windsor Castle with the royal children was in fact, a continuance of an earlier, medieval pattern, English monarchs having wintered at Windsor since the twelfth century. The winter wedding of King Henry I – his second marriage – to the French Princess Adeliza of Louvain, was celebrated at Windsor on 24 January 1121. Windsor Castle came to be closely associated with Christmases within the Royal Family until the death of Prince Albert, after which Queen Victoria generally took to celebrating Christmas at Osborne. 
I am particularly interested here to explore a little closer the actual royal pastimes enjoyed with the snow itself, as opposed to the various charming winter pastimes on the ice such as skating and sledging – Prince Albert having been an extremely keen and enthusiastic skater. Archduchess Maria Antonia of Austria – the French Queen Marie Antoinette – adored the snow, which she ever associated with her Viennese childhood; indeed, she remained excited at the mere sight of it for the rest of her life. (Antonia Fraser, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, 21). Snow, therefore, provides the setting for many charming vignettes and provides the background for generations of royal play. 
In Tudor England, the court used the snowfall as an opportunity to make royal winter sports, as might befit the cycle of seasonal entertainments it enjoyed around its yearly calendar. We know from the accounts of Henry Courtenay, Earl of Devon and Marquess of Exeter, that the courtiers of Henry VIII engaged in snowball fights (Alison Weir, Henry VIII: King & Court, 94; 519) and thanks to the records contained within the Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, that on at least one occasion, the King joined in. This occurred in January 1519, when a 28-year-old Henry VIII borrowed a cap from a boy to keep out the cold. (Ibid, 94). The King once travelled by winter sleigh over the frozen Thames from his Palace at Whitehall to Greenwich in 1536. (Louise Cooling, A Royal Christmas, 110). (Read more.)

More on Marie-Antoinette and sleigh-riding, HERE. Share

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