"The Gift That Kept On Giving" The Princess Mary Christmas Box

By Lynn Stroup

Princess Mary, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, had a creative idea in November, 1914. As the British Military waged war in Europe and parts of Asia, this seventeen year old Royal solicited contributions to a 'Sailors and Soldiers Christmas Fund' to provide a 'Gift From the Nation' to everyone wearing the King's Uniform and serving overseas.

After an overwhelming, supportive response, personalized brass-embossed boxes were given to all regular service personnel in recognition of their sacrifice during the war effort. The metal boxes were hinged, measured 5"x 3" x 1.5", and brass lidded. The top featured Princess Mary with a laurel wreath encircling her head. 'Christmas 1914' and "Imperium Britannium" rested in the center surrounded by the allied countries; France, Serbia, Japan, Russia, Belgium, and Montenegro. Contents varied. Active duty personnel received tobacco, pipe, lighter, and twenty cigarettes along with a greeting card.  Non-smokers and boys received sweets, a bullet pencil, and note paper. Campaign support in India received sweets and spices. Nurses and other female support received chocolates and a greeting card from the Royal Family.

As the war continued, brass and heavy metal become more scarce and difficult to justify as a disposable gift item.  Consequently, the boxes became more cheaply constructed between 1916 and 1918. Two years after the end of the war, in 1920, the fund closed with £200,000.00 in donations creating over 2,500,000 gift tins.   

In 2014, a commemorative reissue of this iconic gift tin made its way to the general public as a reminder of the Great War and all who served.   Many of the original Christmas gift tins remain as cherished collectibles and stand as a testament of valor for those who served King and Country.    
(Sources available upon request)

From the collection of Lynn Stroup


Original Princess Mary Christmas Gift Tin-1914