This is certainly not the most festive card you are likely to receive – the front cover for example shows the seal of the Tower of London along with its postcode! It was sent from Jack Burnard to L.V. Lane, a carpenter and joiner, working at the Tower of London from 1935 to 1939. As well as this Christmas card, we also have Mr Lane’s membership to the Shop Stewards’ Movement – Builders, Engineers & Supplies and his payment card which reveals he was paid 1 shilling, 8 ½ pence per hour for his work. Historic Royal Palaces’ collection also contains a selection of many carpentry tools he would have used every day, including 18 different planes for shaping and finishing wood.
Inside the card is an image with the title as ‘The Belgian Ambassador, The Prince de Ligne, welcoming Charles II at the Tower of London’. This is not strictly accurate; its actual title is ‘Entry of the Prince de Ligne, Ambassador of Philip IV of Spain, in London’. The painting was produced in 1660 to mark the occasion of Claude-Lamoral, Prince de Ligne and ambassador to Philip IV of Spain travelling to London for an audience with the newly crowned Charles II. Spain was the first foreign power to acknowledge the restored monarchy. The original painting is vast in scale, almost five metres across. It still hangs at the family home of the Prince de Ligne in Belœil, Belgium, which during the 17th century was part of the Spanish Netherlands. The painting shows the wharf and the Tower of London thronging with crowds to meet Claude-Lamoral, as he embarks on a procession through the streets of London to audience with the King at Banqueting House, Whitehall. The scene was clearly a spectacular event and was written about by diarists of the time, including both John Evelyn and Samuel Pepys.
Even a modest Christmas card like this can give us a glimpse into 300 years of history at the Tower of London. Today, the Tower continues to be a site of showmanship and spectacle and the Collection Team plays a small part in protecting and preserving the amazing stories it can tell.