A Georgian Christmas was a spectacular affair. Spending time with family, playing games, giving gifts and eating lots of food were all part of the Georgian festive season.
In 1714, George I, the first Hanoverian King of Britain, apparently had plum pudding as part his Christmas dinner, which led to him being nicknamed ‘the pudding king’. The plum pudding, or Christmas pudding, as today, may have been brandy-soaked and set alight.
Jane Austen’s personal letters and novels provide insight into a traditional Georgian Christmas. She describes writing and performing in plays with family members as well as attending balls and rounds of visiting neighbours and friends.
Charitable giving was also central to the festive season. On St Stephen’s, the day after Christmas Day, people gave Christmas boxes to their household staff, and the day became known as Boxing Day.
Twelfth Night was still a very popular day for celebrations but the Georgians equally commemorated the 25 December, St Nicholas Day. It was marked with gift giving, and the type of gifts given were wide-ranging.
The dolls’ house of Kew Palace was made around 1780 for the daughters of George III. In the mid-1790s, the princesses gave the house and its contents as a gift to the children of Sir George Grey, who was the Captain of the King’s yacht.
Most of the furnishings were made by the princesses and reflect the décor of their home at Kew Palace. The princesses were skilled at needlework and painting. The richly embroidered bed hangings bear stylistic comparisons with Amelia’s work, and the fringe was probably made on the fringe loom that is still held in Historic Royal Palace’s collections.
The walls retain their green ‘amoeba’ patter wallpaper, similar in colour to fragments found at the palace itself. Princess Mary wrote about their ‘baby house’ at Kew, probably this very one.
After being gifted from the royal children to the Captain’s family, the house was played with a lot and passed down for centuries. Whether given at Christmas time or not, this cherished dolls’ house was clearly a special gift.