I think...

More than a hundred years ago the British had a rather fat queen. Her name was Victoria. The people liked her. To show how much they liked her, they went round the world fighting wars and gave her places like India, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, great swathes of Africa and the far East and so on.

Victoria married a thin man called Albert. Albert came from Germany. He brought many German ideas with him to London, but it seems all was not well at the palace. One Christmas, as the snow was gently falling, Albert looked out through the palace windows. He was very sad.

The queen saw him and said "Oh, Albert, please. One must not be so melancholy. It's Christmas and one should be happy."

"Ah, Wictoria, Liebling. You do not understand." Albert responded sadly "Here in Britain you have no trees at Christmas"

Queen Victoria was puzzled and she too looked out of the window. "Why Albert," she said wagging her finger in a very royal way "One thinks you need glasses. Ones garden is full of trees."

Albert was quick to respond: "Ah, Wictoria, my leetle Dampf-knudel. I mean you don't have Christmas trees in your homes like vee do in Germany."

The queen did not look happy. (This was not unusual.) "Albert, one has been very good to you since you came to ones Britain. One spends ones holidays in the Black Forest, one lets you wear your leather trousers, but not of course in public. Young Prince Edward drives a Golf GTI and, why look, even ones television is a Telefunken."

This did not cheer up Albert at all. And he told the queen how good he was with English food. "I eat your greasy feesh and cheeps. I drink varm beer, and roast beef and Yorkshire Dampf-knudel is mine favourite."

"That's Yorkshire pudding" the Queen corrected him.

But, what Albert had said about Christmas trees was true. All over the land, the British celebrated Christmas without a tree. Their Christmas decorations were placed on top of presents on the floor. By tradition, bright-coloured lights were put over the decorations and a star was put on top. The whole heap was not more than forty centimetres high and, although the British would never admit this, the traditional British Christmas heap was not very beautiful.

The Queen said Albert could phone his Uncle, Kaiser Wilhelm. Uncle K said he could not imagine how the British could have a Christmas without a tree. A traditional German tree was sent to the palace by express delivery and, thanks to a guaranteed 24 hour service, it arrived in time for Christmas. Albert was very pleased and even Queen Victoria was mildly amused.

Slowly throughout the land, a few British people started to bring trees into their homes at Christmas. But many traditionalists thought the great British Christmas heap was much better than the German tree. Conservative families had no tree and kept their Christmas heap. Progressive families forgot the heap and had a tree. And rich families had both a tree and a heap.

A British inventor, called George Stevenson, was the man who solved the 'great British Christmas heap or tree debate'. Stevenson was famous for inventing the Rocket. This was not advanced as it sounds and his Rocket was only a train and a steam one without a roof at that. Nevertheless we can safely say he was Britain's first rocket scientist.

Stevenson used his all engineering knowledge to place the heap on the tree. And everyone was happy. Rich families suddenly had more room. Traditionalists were delighted that the German tree was under the British heap. And best of all it looked much better than either a heap of decorations on the floor or simple bare green tree.

George Stevenson was invited to meet their Majesties at the Palace. However, the Queen was more interested in where Stevenson got the idea for 'Dr Jeckle and Mr Hyde' from, than the invention of the Christmas tree. This was until dear George pointed out with a knowing smile that he was a totally different Stevenson and was surprised that she didn't know this. Once more Victoria was not amused. On this occasion neither was George Stevenson, as this remark sadly cost him a knighthood.

Today, thanks to Prince Albert, a British Christmas is not complete without a
tree. The Prince and the Queen lived a long and generally happy life. And I believe I am right in saying, that they can still be viewed daily in London's Victoria and Albert Museum.