How to Make Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin

Princess Mary’s Christmas Box

In this post, I will describe how we made a replica of Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin. Mary, 17 at the time, wanted to show the soldiers her appreciation and gratitude for them fighting on the frontline. At first, her goal was to pay for them herself. But she soon realised that was not going to be feasible. So she set up the Princess Fund and asked the public to support it.

Princess Mary’s Plea to the Nation

For many weeks we have all been greatly concerned for the welfare of the sailors and soldiers who are so gallantly fighting our battles by sea and land. Our first consideration has been to meet their more pressing needs, and I have delayed making known wish that has long been in my heart for fear of encroaching on other fund, the claims of which have been more urgent, I want you now to help me to send a Christmas present from the whole nation to every sailor afloat and every solider at the front.

On Christmas Eve, when, like shepherds of old they keep watch, doubtless their thoughts will turn to home and loved ones left behind, and perhaps, too, hey will recall days when, as children themselves, they were wont to hang out their stocking wondering what the morrow had in store. I am sure that we should all be happier to feel that we had helped to send our little token of love and sympathy on Christmas morning, something that would be useful and of permanent value, the making of which may be the means of providing employment in trades adversely affected by the war.

Could there be anything more likely to hearten them in their struggle than a present received straight from home on Christmas Day?

Please will you help me? Mary’

Princess Mary 1914

The response was overwhelming and the Princess was able to send a tin to every serving man.

A Description of Princess Mary Tin

The boxes were five inches long, three and a quarter inches wide and one and a quarter inches deep. In the centre of the bronze lid is an engraved image of Princess Mary herself surrounded by a wreath. Imperium Britannicum, which referred to Britain’s imperial power, was inscribed at the top of the lid. And the names of all of Britain’s allies in the war were inscribed around the edges of the box. Right at the bottom is inscribed Christmas 1914:

There were many variations with regards to contents. We have made the regular smoker’s box. This contained cigarettes, tobacco, Christmas card, photo of Princess Mary a lighter and a pipe. However, there were also other boxes for non smokers. And a different one again for the Indian soldiers and those of other religions.

How to Make Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin

Materials Required:

  • I used a couple of Amazon packing envelopes which were made of sturdy card
  • A printout from Twinkle
  • Some gold foil
  • Two packets of painkillers without the actual pills
  • Double sided sticky tape
  • Gold gaffa tape

How to Make the Tin

First sketch an outline of a box using the printout of the box lid as a guide for the size. Remember to add flaps for sticking when building. Build the box. Cover box in gold gaffa tape to give the impression of a brass tin.

The girls made one each. Here they are made up and covered in gold tape:

How to make the tobacco and cigarette packs

I used two empty packs of ibruprofen and cut them down to size to fit in the tin. To do this, I first unstuck the box so it lay flat, cut it to the right size. And second, I restuck it back together as a box, only smaller than it had been:

We made one box slightly larger than the other, as per the original tin:

The girls covered them in gold gaffa tape. I photocopied the labels of the original cigarettes and tobacco to stick on the covered boxes:

Engraving the Lid of the Tin

I cut out the same area of gold foil to match the printout of the lid. Abigail and Becca went over the design using a screwdriver:

Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin

We found that one needs to press very hard to achieve a good result. I found a very sharp pencil worked well too:

Here is a close up of the final design:

The girls then stuck the foil lid on top of the box using double sided sticky tape:

And added the labels to their boxes inside the tin:

Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin
Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin

Here are the final boxes:

Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin

And opened:

Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin
Princess Mary’s Christmas Tin

The final tins:

Princess Mary’s Christmas Box

On Wednesday I will be posting about that first Christmas of World War One, and particularly about the Christmas Truce.


  1. What a great idea! I think my university students would like to do a similar project in French Club; we often learn about global historic events through the lens of the French language. It’s good to know that even a century ago, there was attention to diversity — (“…other boxes for non smokers. And a different one again for the Indian soldiers and those of other religions.”) You always have such creative ideas and great pictures to go with them.

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