Christ­mas at Kens­ing­ton in full swing

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page -

This year will be my per­fect Christ­mas be­cause we have a spe­cial ex­tra guest for the first time – my four-month-old grand­daugh­ter, Maud.

My son [Lord Fred­er­ick Wind­sor] and daugh­ter-in-law [the ac­tress So­phie Win­kle­man] live in Los An­ge­les, so it will be such a treat to have them here for Christ­mas, to­gether with my daugh­ter, Ella.

There will also be a chris­ten­ing for Maud in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, where Prince Ge­orge was chris­tened. It’s a fam­ily tra­di­tion to have chris­ten­ings there.

I can’t wait to wheel Maud around Kens­ing­ton Palace in her pram. The palace is sur­pris­ingly full of life dur­ing the hol­i­days – the Kents [the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Prince Michael of Kent’s brother and sis­ter-in-law] are usu­ally in Lon­don for the hol­i­days and there are lots of peo­ple who live and work here.

We all go to mid­night Mass on Christ­mas Eve – al­though that might be a lit­tle dif­fi­cult for Maud be­cause of it be­ing so late. We also go to church on Christ­mas Day. We go to one Catholic ser­vice – be­cause I’m Catholic – and one Angli­can.

The palace is filled with dec­o­ra­tions. We have a Christ­mas tree with all the dec­o­ra­tions we’ve had for years – the chil­dren are still very at­tached to par­tic­u­lar baubles and love see­ing them come out again ev­ery year.

We will have a tra­di­tional Christ­mas lunch in the din­ing room at the palace, with the fam­ily and So­phie’s par­ents, too – whom I adore. We all watch the Queen’s Christ­mas mes­sage – and stand up dur­ing the na­tional an­them. The Queen’s speech is such a mar­vel­lous thing, such a good way of unit­ing us all.

Af­ter Christ­mas, I will go away to the Ba­hamas. Since I’ve de­vel­oped rheuma­tism, I’ve gone to hot places – the damp and the cold isn’t good for it. I do still ski at other times of the year. I’ll have a very quiet time in the Ba­hamas, apart from play­ing ten­nis three times a week.

The Royal fam­ily keep the Ger­man tra­di­tion of open­ing their presents on Christ­mas Eve. We fol­lowed the con­ven­tion when we had Christ­mas with them at San­dring­ham and we did the same at Nether Lyp­i­att Manor in Glouces­ter­shire, where we used to live.

It is sad not to go to Nether Lyp­i­att any more [it was sold in 2006], but it was ex­haust­ing pack­ing up on Fri­day, get­ting down there, do­ing the flow­ers and ev­ery­thing, and then do­ing the same thing all over again, com­ing back on Mon­day morn­ing. So I love Christ­mas in Lon­don and we will keep to the fam­ily cus­tom here at Kens­ing­ton Palace, open­ing presents on Christ­mas Eve and sav­ing some for the next day. It’s a tra­di­tion that I fol­lowed when I was grow­ing up. I must say, I do miss the snow – which we do get some­times here but not nearly as of­ten as when I was a child.

For my per­fect Christ­mas, I would re­turn back to those snowy win­ters of my childhood. I was born in Ta­chov, western Bo­hemia on the Bavar­ian bor­der, now in the Czech Repub­lic, in Jan­uary 1945, when it was part of Hitler’s Sude­ten­land.

De­spite the hor­rors of the war and the aus­ter­i­ties af­ter­wards, we still had the most won­der­ful Christ­mases. We would go to my fam­ily’s house in Kitzbühel in the Ty­rol in Aus­tria, a won­der­ful ski­ing area – my mother skied at the 1936 Olympics. So my ear­li­est

Who is your favourite his­tor­i­cal fig­ure? I have sev­eral: the Em­press Maria Theresa (Aus­tria); King Charles II (Eng­land); Henry IV (France) – and whomever I am writ­ing about at the time!

What would you like to be re­mem­bered for? Be­ing a “life enhancer” — that I im­proved the lives of those mine touched in some way.

Herbal tea or stiff drink? Herbal tea — I am tee­to­tal! (Pun in­tended, but true.)

What would your last meal be? Tafel­spitz — a spe­cial cut of boiled beef, a great Aus­trian dish.

What are you lis­ten­ing to at the mo­ment? In­vari­ably Mozart — right now, The Mar­riage of Fi­garo; but of­ten Wag­ner — es­pe­cially the Ring cy­cle.

If you could go to one place in the world, where would it be? The Aus­trian Ty­rol.

Ty­rol tra­di­tion: Princess Michael of Kent en­joys Christ­mas time at the palace, above; she spent childhood win­ters at Kitzbühel, top

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