Why People Give Gifts to the British Royal Family | About
As the Queen prepares to officially mark her birthday this Saturday, researchers at the University of Stirling are launching a study into the centuries-old tradition of giving gifts to the British royal family.
Led by Dr Ines Branco-Illodo, University of Stirling Management School, the research seeks to explore and understand why members of the public give gifts to members of the Royal Family on occasions such as official visits, Christmas, weddings, birthdays, births, and funerals.
Dr Ines Branco-Illodo said: “We often see in the news that on special occasions such as official visits, family celebrations, birthdays or other anniversaries, members of the royal family are overwhelmed with flowers, chocolates, cards and other gifts from the Public. However, we know very little about these experiences from the donor perspective. We are very keen to listen to people’s stories to understand a different dimension of how we give gifts.
Sheila Clark, a semi-retired home economics professor from Newton Mearns near Glasgow, regularly offers her photographs to the Royal Family and has volunteered to participate in the research.
Sheila, 63, said: “I don’t do it all the time, so when I do, it’s special. I can go see them, have a little chat and give them something, and it gives me great memories.
Sheila grew up in London, accompanying her mother on trips to see the royal family.
She explained: “I first saw the Queen come out of Buckingham Palace when I was four years old. My mother had been interested her whole life, since the Queen was a princess, and I spent much of my youth outside of Clarence House or in the Royal Parks.
“I got interested in photography in 1977, at the age of 19, and first photographed the Queen with a snapshot, walking up Hope Street in Glasgow at the start of her Silver Jubilee tour. In the 1980s, I took my mom to royal events, took a picture and we talked to them, and we often offered flowers. Soon I started giving them the photo I had taken the previous time.
Sheila and her mother often spent Christmas Day in Sandringham, where the private service for the Royal Family is broadcast to supporters outside the church. “I was there for Diana’s last Christmas,” she recalls. “I gave Galaxy chocolate to William and Harry. It was always a great atmosphere, we would meet up with other friends there, and it was nice to share Christmas Day with the Royal Family. The queen would go out and pick flowers offered by the little children.
“I was there for Kate’s first Christmas, gave her a picture I took of her at Trooping the Color. But soon after more and more people started to come, it got too overwhelming.
Sheila said detectives accompanying the royal often directed them to those in the crowd who had gifts, so that they became familiar faces.
“The Queen knows my name and where I’m from – and has spotted me and stopped to speak in the past. In 2003, my mother received a letter and a bouquet from Prince Charles, after I wrote to tell her that she was not well. After receiving this, even though she hadn’t been out for a while, she said I had to take her to Bellahouston Park in Glasgow to see him, and he came over and held her hand.
Sheila knows her photos are scattered around different royal residences: she saw a photo of the piano at Balmoral with two of her snaps on it. “It’s very special to know that,” she said.
Dr Branco-Illodo added: “Sheila’s story is incredibly interesting and provides valuable insight into the experiences and motivations of those who give gifts to the Royal Family.
“We would like to hear a range of stories and experiences from people who have made a meaningful gift to the Royal Family and encourage them to show their interest.”
To support the research, the team would be interested in learning about the experience of anyone who has given a gift to the Royal Family, especially those who do so regularly. Participants will receive a £ 20 voucher. Members of the public interested in participating can express their interest here.
The research team also includes Dr Mona Moufahim, University of Stirling Management School, and Dr Chris Pich, University of Nottingham Trent.