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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 04:31 GMT
Cabinet chipped in for royal gift
By Lucy Wilkins
BBC News Online

Princess Anne marries Captain Mark Phillips
Royal wedding: But crumby gift?
Just like workmates across the country, the Cabinet members of 1973 all chipped in to buy a friend a wedding gift.

In their case it was for the Queen's eldest daughter, Princess Anne, as she married Captain Mark Phillips on 14 November 1973.

Each gave exactly 10.53 for a joint wedding present, Cabinet papers released under the 30-year rule show.

According to the documents, Princess Anne thanked the Cabinet "most warmly for a really lovely rug."

"We are thrilled with it and much look forward to using it in our new house," the 23-year-old Princess wrote.

This makes an old Persian rug look pretty crumby
Sir Robert Armstrong

But not everyone was happy with the gift.

The US Government sent along a flared crystal bowl and four 18-carat gold candlesticks.

This prompted Sir Robert Armstrong, later to become Cabinet Secretary, to scrawl on the bottom of the US press release for the gift: "This makes an old Persian rug look pretty crumby.

"But no doubt the president's resources are greater."

The Cabinet had been in on the wedding news five days before the public announcement.

A memo stamped top secret shows the prime minister had told them the news on 24 May that the Queen was giving her assent for the marriage.

QUEEN'S THANK YOU LETTER
It seems to have given pleasure to everyone
A few weeks later, the Queen herself wrote to "my dear Prime Minister", thanking him for his congratulatory message.

On 11 June 1973, the Queen wrote: "Philip and I thank you for your letter about our daughter's engagement and hope you will also thank your colleagues in their congratulations.

"It seems to have given pleasure to everyone and they all seem genuinely happy about it - and also it has been a nice change from bad news to good news.

"Yours sincerely, Elizabeth"

Princess Anne could have got a bedroom mirror, a brass fire guard or an occasional table as they were also on the list of potential presents drawn up after consultation with the palace.

Downing Street research revealed the precedent for collective Cabinet gifts was set in 1947 when the Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, married and in 1960 when her sister Princess Margaret was wed.

Working honeymoon

Anne's wedding, watched by an estimated 500 million television viewers, took place at Westminster Abbey after a grand procession along the streets of central London.

But the honeymoon was not free from Foreign Office involvement.

Fearing a repeat of criticism when Princess Margaret honeymooned on the Royal yacht Britannia, the Foreign Office devised a series of public appearances for Princess Anne to balance the life of luxury, memos show.

Anne spent her honeymoon meeting and greeting in Barbados, Ecuador, Colombia and other Commonwealth countries before returning home to that "really lovely" rug.




SEE ALSO:
Royal couple appear together
04 Jul 01  |  Scotland
Weddings of the past
20 Jun 99  |  royal wedding
Anne marks her half century
15 Aug 00  |  UK News


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