It is one of her favourite Christmas traditions – decorating the tree at Clarence House with help from children, with serious, life-limiting conditions.
But with youngsters unable to attend her annual party this year, the Duchess of Cornwall was determined keep the magic alive by taking the festive fun online.
She spoke by video link to nine children supported by Helen & Douglas House hospice in Oxfordshire, inviting them to decorate the glittering tree in her hallway – with help from her assistant equerry, Captain Charlie Ross of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards.
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And later she played “Mother Christmas” – loading a horse-drawn carriage with gifts for them and sending it on its way.
Camilla, in a blue dress by Edina Ronay, told them: “Here’s Charlie in his bearskin and he is going to put your very own special baubles with your name on, onto the tree.”
Among the families she spoke to were eight-year-old Bradley Parsons, who has Dravet Syndrome, and his mother Kim.
The Duchess said of Helen & Douglas House, which has supported them for two years: “They are really brilliant, aren’t they? They are the best hospice I have ever seen. They help so many people, just give you a bit of break.”
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The Duchess also loaded a horse-drawn carriage with gifts
The Duchess told four-year-old Ella Greenough: “We have some very special treats being delivered to your house and I hope one day we can meet in real life soon.”
Her mother Kirsty said afterwards: “The thought of Ella’s bauble on the Christmas tree at Clarence House is just a moment we will remember for the rest of our lives.
“We can’t thank Helen & Douglas House and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall enough for letting us experience this moment.”
Nathan Best, nine, who has Prader Willi syndrome, impressed the Duchess with a rousing rendition of We Wish You A Merry Christmas. “How many days have you been practising for Nathan?” asked Camilla. “That was brilliant. Thank you for your lovely singing.”
Eight-year-old Fatima Ali was unable to dial in because of a hospital appointment, so Charlie used his sword to place her decoration on top of the tree in her honour.
“If you are watching, see if Charlie can pull off this astonishing feat,” said the Duchess, adding: “Oh brilliant Charlie! Practice makes perfect,” as he succeeded.
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Camilla delivering presents to send to the children
Ending the call, she told the children and their families: “A very happy Christmas and let’s hope for a better New Year. It was lovely to see you all.”
The Duchess then carried armfuls of goody bags out to the waiting Royal Brougham and piled them in. Patting its two Irish draught horses, Milford and Echo, she told them: “Get these presents to the children on time. I have faith in you.”
The bags, containing a toy Corgi, a guardsman Christmas decoration, a crown-topped pencil, stickers and a book by Charlie Mackesy, were whisked away to be sent on to the children.
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The Christmas tree at Clarence House
The Duchess said of the adapted event: “I’ve got to do something, I can’t let it go without marking it. They are so sweet, those children.
“I’d rather like to jump in the carriage and head off with them [the presents] myself, but I can’t.”
Speaking of her own Christmas plans, she said: “I suppose we shall just be at home and see who we are going to be able to see.
“It’s not going to be a Christmas like others this year. And we have just got to make the best of it. Even if it is just meeting up outside or in the garden.
“We’ve got to talk to our families, it’s just a question of trying to find the safest way to do it.”
Clare Periton, Chief Executive of Helen & Douglas House said afterwards: “For our families, Christmas is a time when they can make precious memories which they will treasure forever and this will certainly be one that they will always remember.”
For more information visit: www.Helenanddouglas.org.uk
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