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Saturday, 21 April, 2001, 06:47 GMT 07:47 UK
Presents fit for a Queen
HM Queen
What to buy for the woman who has everything...?
The Queen will today be opening the cards and presents from loyal subjects and admirers around the world, sent to celebrate her 75th birthday. But what to send the monarch who has everything? Chris Horrie has some thoughts.

Judging by the private gifts the Royal Family exchange at Christmas, they have remarkably humble tastes.

Favourite presents in the past have included a washing-up apron and a casserole dish presented to the Queen by her sons and daughters.

Practical... The Queen prefers practical prezzies like casserole pots
Prince Charles, meanwhile, was once presented with a doormat by Princess Anne.

But from the lavishness of the gifts the family receive from other people, their simple tastes might be understandable.

The Queen is showered with presents from potentates during state visits. Recent gifts have included a scale model of the Indonesian royal palace wrought from solid silver and the ultimate in tasteful sheik chic - a solid gold pinafore.

During her trip to Australia last year the Queen was given masses of presents from the public including silk scarfs, packets of biscuits, boxes of chocolates, various "aborginal artefacts", sculptures, an Emu egg and - likely to be a great favourite - a corgi dog screen saver for the royal PC.

No Offence

Keeping track of all the formal gifts can be a problem. Officials have the onerous task of logging each present and making sure that - no matter how hideous - it is on display in the event of a return visit to Buckingham Palace by the gift-giver.

Another difficulty for the Queen is choosing an appropriate gift to give in exchange, bearing in mind the need to avoid "gift-inflation" and risking financial headaches as monarchs around the world compete to provide the most impressive gift.

According to the palace the Queen has become very expert at avoiding this, and chooses the gifts herself. One stand-by is a vast stock of Shetland scarves and wooden trinket boxes made by her nephew, Lord Linley.

Boxing clever... Viscount Linley supplies the Queen with gift boxes
Rulers' Swap Shop

Still, nobody is perfect. She once gave the King of Nepal a hi-fi system without realising that the country had no electricity supply at the time.

Prince Charles offered one of his own watercolour paintings after being given an 80,000 Aston Martin by a Arab prince. (He was also once given a speed boat by Imelda Marcos, which he gave to charity).

Say it with Flowers

Flowers are a traditional birthday offering. But the Queen gets more than her fair share and many end up being forwarded to hospitals.

And although the Queen is famously keen on dogs and horses, giving live pets as presents is not a good idea.

Its a snip... the ideal surprise present
In recent years she has received a veritable zooful of creatures (which is where they end up - London Zoo) including a white bull (from King Goodwill of the Zulus, 1995) and four Arab horses (from King Hassan of Morrocco, 1996).

Buckingham Palace says the Queen has received a "large number of other interesting animals" over the years including tortoises, beavers, oncas, sloths and an elephant called Jumbo, a gift from the President of Cameroon.

Other members of the Royal family have received on the Queen's behalf pygmy hippopotami, grisly bears and baby crocodiles.

Earlier this year Prince Charles was offered a hive of live bees during a tour of Slovenia, but had to turn down the gift because of UK quarantine laws. On the Queen's behalf he accepted a "traditional Slovenian stick" instead.

"Nowadays," the palace says, "the Queen rarely accepts gifts of live animals".

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