When I was visiting Harewood House last month, I learned about the Princess Mary, daughter of George V and therefore aunt of Queen Elizabeth II, who, when she was 16-17 and the country was beset by the "Great War," wanted to do her part to help the war effort. Her idea was to see that every soldier in 1914 had a Christmas gift from her—a gold metal box filled with treats such as cigarettes and playing cards.
I recognized this box when I saw it at Fortnum & Mason the day before I left England. In this box you will find two chocolate blocks and a miniature set of playing cards (no tobacco!). But the treasure is really the memory of a young princess who wanted to do her share in a war that proved very costly in terms of Britain's brave young men.
The card inside:
Fortnum's at War
What came to be known as "The Great War' broke out in August 1914. Princess Mary, the daughter of King George and Queen Mary, announced her plan in October 1914 to send a Christmas gift to
"every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front".
Over the years of conflict, two and a half million Christmas gift tins, filled with treats and comforts, were sent to those on active service.
Fortnum & Mason was one of the most significant suppliers of food and equipment to British officers during the First World War. Parcels filled with a taste of home were sent out daily to service personnel on the Western Front and the Mediterranean, to ships' companies, and to the adventurous members of the Royal Flying Corps and its reincarnation as the Royal Air Force.
Through the International Red Cross, Allied Prisoners of War received comfort in the shape of a Fortnum's parcel, as proof of the devotion of those loved ones in Blighty. Wherever they served,
'a Fortnum's delivery brought the warmth of home.'
To mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, Fortnum & Mason has created this version of Princess Mary's tin.
Named 'Tommy's Tin', in homage to the historic soubriquet for British servicemen, it contains chocolate and specially-designed playing cards. It is presented as a mark of gratitude to the men and women of the British Armed Forces serving away and in danger.
P.S. She later married the Viscount Lascelles (who later became Earl of Harewood), who was himself a soldier in the First World War. She went on to live the rest of her life at Harewood, which you can see here: https://www.pinterest.com/susanaaut…/susanas-harewood-house/
If you are interested, I am giving away the above prize on the Belles' Launch Party Page. All you have to do is post an ornament for my Christmas tree!