Festive Order of the Garter focus at Windsor Castle this Christmas

See how the royal residences are marking the season

As the festive season approaches, the Royal Collection Trust has announced their plans to celebrate Christmas at its royal residences with magnificent Christmas displays, whilst paying homage to royal history.

The Crimson Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. (Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023)

Windsor Castle

The festive celebrations at Windsor Castle will celebrate the 675th anniversary of the Order of the Garter. The Order is the oldest order of chivalry in Britain which was founded in Windsor in 1348. Edward III founded the order around the time of his claim to the French throne.

Appointments to The Order of the Garter are made at the Sovereign’s sole discretion, making such a role a great honour. Membership is limited to the Sovereign, The Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 living members, known as ‘Companions’.

Tell me about…. The Most Noble Order of the Garter

Windsor is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, having been built by William I; today it covers 13 acres.  Having gone through a number of upgrades and renovations over the centuries, most of today’s castle comes from work by George IV, with renovations following the 1992 fire.

The highlight of the Castle’s Christmas display will be a 20-foot-high Nordmann Fir tree in St George’s Hall, which has been grown nearby in Windsor Great Park. This year, the tree will be topped by a specially commissioned Garter Star to commemorate the 675th anniversary. There will also be Coronation-themed decorations on the tree to celebrate The King and Queen’s Coronation earlier this year.

Another key highlight of the festive celebrations will be seen in the Waterloo Chamber; the 160-foot-long dining table will be laid with porcelain from the Garter Service, featuring a design inspired by the Garter star and the Order’s motto ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him who thinks evil of it)’.

Grand staircase at Windsor Castle. (Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023)

An additional Christmas tree topped with a Garter Star will also be seen in the Crimson Drawing Room – one of the most elaborate rooms in the Castle. The room is regularly used by the Royal Family for private events and were part of the private apartments created for George IV.

The room was returned to its former glory following the fire.

St George’s Chapel is the mother church of the Order of the Garter, which can also be visited during a trip to the Castle. The annual Garter Services were discontinued during the reign of George III in 1805, probably due to his recurring illnesses, but were revived by George VI in 1948 for the 600th anniversary of the founding of the Order and have since become an annual event.

St George’s Chapel will be open to visitors to the Castle on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and services are open to all, seven days a week.

The festivities at Windsor Castle can be seen from 30 November 2023 to 1 January 2024.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Royal Family’s official Scottish residence. It was founded as a monastery in 1128 at the end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, and has become the focal residence for national celebrations and events in Scotland, especially during Holyrood Week.

A Christmas tree in the wood-panelled Throne Room is the centrepiece for the displays at Holyroodhouse. There will also be another glittering Nordmann Fir tree and two decorated mantelpieces in the storied Great Gallery.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse Dining room decorated for Christmas. (Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023)

Velvet garlands, vibrant berries and seasonal foliage will feature on the Great Stair leading to the historic State Apartments, and wreaths will be hung in the windows in the enfilade of the King’s Rooms.

In the Royal Dining Room, the grand table will be laid with a silver service and with sugared fruit and foliage, harking back to the days of the Georgians.

Visitors interested in learning how monarchs have celebrated Christmas over the centuries – from exchanging Christmas cards and personal gifts to holding festive pantomimes – can hear short talks held on Thursdays throughout December.

There will be a special event focusing on Mary, Queen of Scots, which will take place on the day she was born: 8 December.

The festivities at the Palace of Holyroodhouse can be seen from 23 November 2023 to 1 January 2024.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse Great Gallery decorated for Christmas. (Royal Collection Trust / © His Majesty King Charles III 2023)

There will also be exclusive guided tours at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where visitors will have the opportunity to explore the State Rooms or Apartments at each residence. The tours will be available from November to February.

A range of royal memorabilia will be available from the Royal Collection Trust shop online.

You can book tickets for the royal residences here.

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