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Christmas Gift Ideas for The Royal Anglophile

Friday, December 5, 2014

In America, the moment after the turkey is stowed in the fridge, as the last piece of pumpkin pie is consumed--for better or worse--the Christmas season has begun. This means a lot of really great things like Christmas music, holiday parties, cozy cookie baking, hot chocolate, etc... but a major project is that pesky Christmas shopping list. What do you get for Dad? How about that brother who has suddenly become a hipster? (Actually, I know exactly what I am getting him...) It can get complicated. I can't help you with most of your gift-giving woes, but for the Kate fan on your shopping list, I have some fun royal-related gift ideas for all ages and price ranges.

Hostess gift: I love a scented candle. And I love Jenny Packham. The Duchess's go-to designer and official Queen of Evening Wear often whips up creations costing thousands of pounds, but you can add some Jenny Packham sparkle to your home without spending quite as much. The designer collaborated with Neom Organics to create two different luxury candles. Hostess gift, or for yourself...

Bits & Bobs: Fun royal-related paraphernalia is always welcome. Ben Pentreath was the discreet interior designer who helped Kate on the Anmer Hall renovations. Even if you aren't planning to overhaul the house, his website sells fun little knick-knacks that are perfect stocking stuffers. We always do lots of Christmas crackers during the season. They are a Victorian tradition, and the crackers add beauty and interest to the table and a fun and festive spirit. Usually, they are packed with a paper crown, a small token or toy, and usually a riddle or joke. I particularly love his pantomime design below.  Keep in mind that many of our Christmas traditions originated in the Victorian era, and the flavor of a traditional Christmas, still takes inspiration from mid-19th century England.

Back in the day, I used to think there was no more pathetic gift than a Christmas tree ornament. We had more than we knew what to do with, after all... Now, as I realize every new home must build a collection, I think they are charming gift and a great way to add personal meaning to your tree. Historic Royal Palaces, which manages many of the public aspects of our favorite royal homes, has a plethora of fun and imaginative gifts for the most fanatical of anglophiles. I love their ornaments, but they have a long list of unique gifts for royal fans:

These 6 Wives of Henry VIII "glass charms" are invaluable for telling your champagne apart from everyone else's. That's a pretty important element of the holiday season:

Magnets of the "Kings and Queens of England" are perfect if you are shopping for a royal-fan who is also interested in history, and make for a fun stocking stuffer!

I desperately need these super cute place settings. The lion from the Royal Coat of Arms lounges in different relaxed positions for these whimsical table ornaments.

Lastly, and I am not suggesting this so much as pointing it out, there is a (lightly macabre) charm bracelet representing the six wives of Henry the VIII. The charms represent: divorced, beheaded died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Oh, history, you twisted and fascinating thing.

Shop these and many more fun ideas here.

For the kiddies: If you have little ones of your own, friends, or grandchildren who need an injection of royalty into their Christmas, the first stop should be some Georgie related paraphernalia. Visit Prince George Pieces or What George Wore for the labels Kate is dressing her baby in and the possibilities to track down the repliGeorges. If clothing is not up your alley, David Seow has written a charming children's book about Kate and William's visit to Singapore. With the aid of fantastic illustrator Soefara Jafney, they have created a sweet story for kids accompanied by faithful representations of Kate's fashion. A win-win. You can buy this at Epigram Books here.

For the adult bookworms: Several of you have asked about books specifically about Kate and I have to say, since she is still such a young royal, and I have been following her for years, I haven't read many biographies on her. I think there will be far more information to create a truly comprehensive and authoritative biography down the road some years. That being said, I did read Katie Nicholl's The Making of a Royal Romance when it was first published. I don't remember specifics, but I remember I enjoyed it. She has a biography on Kate out as well. While you occasionally need to take some of her writing with a grain of salt, I have been a Nicholl fan for many years. I would suggest either book for some royal reading over the Christmas holiday.

Other recommendations for those looking to curl up by the fireplace over the holidays...

Dickie Arbiter's On Duty with the Queen...

Dickie Arbiter's hotly anticipated semi-biography recounting his days behind the scenes in Buckingham Palace and the Wales's (in)famous marriage was released on the 1st of October.

Dickie not only gives us a peek inside the palace, he spends a fair amount of time recounting his own story, which is actually very attention grabbing. His family background and his own personal experiences are from another era, and although I bought the book to get the royal scoop, I found myself very intrigued to read his reminisces from a time and a place so different from today. 

The book itself is the not the scandal sensation it was made out to be in the media. Dickie gives readers a pretty general overview of the years that saw Diana and Charles disintegrate and ultimately split. While there were a few stories recounting inside incidents with the royal couple, really no new revelations were made here that we did not already know. The stories he highlights give a perspective which is different, but the content has been told many times. 

He also does not take a side. It is clear he was quite fond of Diana, while at the same time seeing Charles' predicament as well. Whatever his personal bias is, (and I think everyone in the end blames one of the two more than the other, even if by a small majority) it was not apparent from the book.

It was an interesting insight into the job of a royal press secretary, which is exactly what the title of the book suggests and I would highly recommend this as a great holiday read.

Getting significantly further afield, but deep into my area of interest, if you are intrigued by royal history, my favorite historian of all time is the incredible Antonia Fraser. She thoroughly researches her work, presents the material in engaging prose, and leaves the facts to be judged. She really is an unbiased scribe of history, which is very important. She will give her opinion, but always notes when it is her own supposition. You are left to trust her judgement or not. I cannot recommend her highly enough; she is a genius. I have every intention of reading every biography she has time. At the moment, I can wholeheartedly suggest The Six Wives of Henry VIII. For the Francophiles here, Marie-Antoinette: The Journey is marvelous. I read it after my first visit to Versailles and it made me fall all the more in love with that palace, not to mention gain added respect for the hapless French queen. Also, for those who love Versailles, Fraser has written the fascinating story of Louis XIV by examining the women he loved: The Women in the Life of the Sun King. Great read.

Cooks in the kitchen:  Fiona Cairns was tapped to create the William and Kate's wedding cake and working closely with Kate, she created a splendid confection that was imposing, but beautiful and covered in symbolism. She has multiple several cook books for the creatively inclined:

Former royal chef, Darren McGrady also has a great book for the royal fan who loves to bake. Full of recipes and reminisces, it is hard to beat this one:

On the topic of dessert, why send someone a Boomf? Boomf is James Middleton's personalized marshmallow company. You upload your own photos to go on the nine squares in a box. It is perfect for Instagram fans. They ship internationally, and while they are more expensive than your average marshmallow, the fun of your own photos makes them a special gift or the perfect addition to a holiday party.

Christmas hampers and baskets: Putting together your own collection of little royal-related items can be a unique and meaningful gift.

Highgrove Organic Lemon Curd

A selection of fine teas, preferably from a company that holds a royal warrant, such as Fortnum & Mason or Yorkshire Tea--one of my favorites--or something from The Prince of Wales's Highgrove Estate store. Add a book and a ribbon and you are set.

Royal movies: A good DVD for a cosy night-in is never a wasted gift. Great royal titles include, The Young Victoria, a fantastic portrayal of Queen Victoria's  early life and marriage. Among other things, the costuming and locations are exquisite.

The Queen. Helen Mirren won an Oscar for her incredible performance as the reigning Elizabeth II. The action centers around the PR crisis the monarchy faced in the wake of Diana's death. Again, beautiful, beautiful locations. This is an excellently done film.

The Duchess. We have chatted about this movie before, but I reiterate--it is so good! Keira Knightley nailed her performance in this sumptuous period drama.

Gems and jewelry: Trying to cover the entire spectrum of gift categories, we cannot overlook jewelry. 'Tis the season to spoil, after all. If you are looking to find a special gift without entirely breaking the bank, consider something from one of Kate's favorite jewelers. Gifting the same item that Kate has actually worn will usually set you back thousands, but Claudia Bradby's Camellia necklace was worn by Kate before she married William and is more affordable. You probably know that when Kate worked for Jigsaw, she collaborated with Claudia on a number of pieces and Claudia's husband, Tom, was the reporter William specifically requested to conduct the engagement interview:

Monica Vinader made headlines when Kate wore her jewelry to the Natural History Museum in that striking Jenny Packham evening gown.

This mini Riva Hoop Pendant is a fun tribute to Kate and in her same delicate style, without splashing out the £2,000 for the actual bib necklace she wore. Although, I guess the bib necklace is an option if the spirit is moving you...View the entire Riva collection here.

Kate loves charms. Her entire family is partial to personalized motifs, as we have seen from Carole's acorn necklace and the themed jewelry they wore to the Royal Wedding. Kate was spotted last year wearing a charm necklace from Merci Maman:

Merci Maman Boutique 

Kate's was engraved with George's name and William's initial on the heart, but the necklace is still offered and you can personalize your own for $151 here. Kate also has a beautiful Asprey charm necklace featuring an acorn, oak leaf, and mushroom, which we saw multiple times this year.

The pièce de résitance, for a special prince looking to spoil a princess, will cost about $38,000. Asprey has an entire collection of jewelry themed around oak leaves. (Coincidence? I would not care to speculate... ) The bangle of white gold and diamond oak leaves is perfect for a woman who started as an acorn and is quickly growing into a beautiful oak. (Cough, cough, look lively, William.) You can shop the entire Asprey Woodland collection here.

Happy shopping, but don't forget to slow down and savor the small things. Warmth, food, and family!!  Follow my Pinterest board here where I will be pinning other Christmas gift ideas as we move toward the 25th.

See you in a few days as all eyes turn to New York and Washington, D.C.

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