My mother, Barbara Cartland, was deeply religious all her long life and so Christmas was a very special time of the year for her. She believed that Christmas is a time for renewal and celebration, of friends and family and above all of hope that the future will be better than the past and that there will be peace and no more war. If my mother was still with us, this Christmas would have been particularly poignant for her as she had lost her father in 1918 and her beloved husband, Hugh, my father, was horrifically wounded at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917.
More was to follow in the Second World War where she lost both her brothers at Dunkirk. But she never lost her faith or her strong belief in God and in the power of prayer.
So on Christmas Day the family would all go to Church, sing endless carols and pray for a new world. Then back to the house for a traditional Christmas lunch of turkey and plum pudding with several silver threepences hidden inside it.
When the meal was over, Barbara insisted that everybody sitting around the table should make a short speech and it did not have to be a long one. I remember feeling nervous at the prospect, but it taught me not to be self-conscious about public speaking. Barbara would often say that if you can make a good speech to your family, who are longing to criticise, then you can speak to five thousand people at the Albert Hall without any qualms or butterflies.
After Christmas lunch there was first the Queen’s speech and we all stood to attention for the National Anthem and only then were we allowed to start opening our presents, all beautifully wrapped in pink paper. Christmas was always an extremely happy time for all the family at Camfield Place and even the dogs had their presents wrapped and placed on the Christmas tree! But I know that my mother would shed a quiet tear for those she loved who were not there with her around the table.