Much of the world is gearing up for Easter this week, and certainly for the Christian faith, this is a major festival in the religious calendar. The giving of Easter Eggs is to celebrate new life; the symbol of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and a cracked open egg stands for the empty tomb.
Over the centuries, ordinary eggs were boiled and decorated with hand painting using vegetable dyes and latterly we have turned to one of our favourite confections, chocolate. For young and old alike, Easter and chocolate have become synonymous and a treat to look forward to as winter turns to spring. Eggs are traditionally given on Easter Sunday (again in line with Jesus rising from the dead), and although many households will also eat a Simnel Cake that afternoon for tea, the origins of this were for servant girls to bake the cake for Mothering Sunday in Lent and take home to see their mothers.
The Royal Family like to celebrate Easter with as many of the group together as they can, and traditionally The Queen and the Royal Court move to Windsor Castle for the celebration. Usually staying for a few weeks, The Queen often hosts a State Visit around that time at Windsor, and she also uses the opportunity to entertain frequently.
A popular Easter Court tradition is ‘Dine and Sleep’ invitations. Being so close to London, guests are encouraged to drive out to the Castle in time to enjoy cocktails after changing for dinner (black tie of course!), and spend the night afterwards, departing after breakfast next day. This harks back to a tradition from the Victorian era when there were no cars or chauffeurs to take guests back to London for the night and a carriage ride would take too long! Nowadays, it would take just 40 minutes, but in the Royal Household many traditions are upheld, and this is always a much-coveted invitation.
In this way, Her Majesty manages to entertain very many guests all together from a variety of backgrounds; politics, the arts, industry and education, and they get to enjoy the magnificent setting of Europe’s oldest inhabited Castle, albeit with many aeroplanes whizzing overhead on the Heathrow Airport flight path!
Windsor Castle is a truly wondrous estate and within the boundary walls is the stunning St George’s Chapel. Here, The Queen and members of the Royal Family will gather for the traditional Easter Day service before a formal lunch which usually offers very similar fare to our traditions at home; Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, and often a simple fish or egg starter, perhaps the Queen Mother’s old favourite of Eggs Drumkilbo (a lovely concoction of lobster, eggs and mayonnaise rather like an upmarket prawn cocktail and thankfully also available at the renowned Goring Hotel!), and apple pie, often served with vanilla ice cream (a la Mode), another favourite.
Members of the Royal Family take up most of the bedrooms and suites in the Castle over Easter, and almost certainly The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall; the Princess Royal and her family; and the Earl and Countess of Wessex will be present. Some members of the inner circle of the Household will be on duty and asked as guests, but the main celebrations are family orientated at this time of year as they often are in our own families.
After several Dine & Sleeps, and potentially a State Visit, there is sometimes very little space between Easter and the early May Royal Windsor Horse Show, when Her Majesty is always on hand to spectate and members of the Family regularly take part. From there, it is usually time to head back to London for the first of the Social Season, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, about which we will write more another time!