January 20, 2014
Weird Gifts For The British Royals
For all those of us who “do” Christmas, there is always that dreaded moment when you rip off the wrapper and find some really weird or totally rubbish gift. Your face contorts into an idiot grin as you lie and say “Oooh that’s lovely, thank you.” It must sometimes seem like Christmas every day for the British Royal Family, as wherever they go or whomever comes to see them in one of their numerous palaces, they have gifts thrust upon them. A list of presents they received in 2013, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, has just been published and it makes me wonder what they really thought of them.
Some of the presents would be valuable enough for the rest of us to retire on, like the opulent five strand pearl necklace that the 87-year-old Queen Elizabeth received from the president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed. Clearly not afraid of ostentation, the president also gave Her Majesty a family photograph in a jewel-encrusted gold frame set upon – get this – a decorated and bejewelled ostrich egg. Meanwhile, on their 2013 tour of the Middle East, Prince Charles and Camilla (aka the Duchess of Cornwall) did very nicely, too. In Saudi Arabia, the king gave Camilla a “parure.” Don’t worry if you don’t know what that is. It is not something we commoners see very often; a glittering matching set of jewellery that includes a necklace, earrings, bracelet and a tiara. Among the Queen’s other goodies were a portrait of herself burned onto a tree trunk, an artillery cartridge, and a radio alarm clock.
At the other extreme were some not so extravagant items. Charles picked up a figurine of a popular BBC children’s character called Postman Pat from the film company Rubicon, while his sister, Princess Anne, when visiting a construction company, might have expected a golden ladder or a diamond-studded brick, but received nothing more than an ornamental garden gnome. It must have had something to do with the recession. Poor old Princess Anne did seem to get saddled with some real duds, as her other gifts during the year included an artist’s impression of her riding a moose and a book entitled Your Arms Remind Me of Pork Luncheon Meat.
On the “cooler” side, I reckon Prince Harry must have been chuffed with the brown leather flying jacket that America’s First Lady Michelle Obama gave him at the White House in May and the baseball and football shirts he got when he was “down with the kids” in Harlem.
This tradition of bestowing gifts on the Royals goes back centuries. In 1764, George III was sent a cheetah from India and in 1827 the Pasha of Egypt gave George IV a giraffe. During her long reign, the present Queen has had her fair share of live animal gifts too, including horses, sloths, a canary, jaguars, beavers, turtles, and an elephant called Jumbo from Cameroon. The Queen is a keen rider and has actually ridden some of these beasts. I’ll leave you to work out which ones.
Official gifts are turned over to the state unless they are worth less than £150, when they can be considered as personal and may be retained by the individual. One can’t help but think, where does all this stuff end up?
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