THE Royal Family has been showered with gifts for centuries. As long ago as 1520, Henry VIII received two monkeys – covered in gold leaf - from the Ottoman Sultan. The same year , Henry used the monkeys to amuse his guests when he met Francis I of France following the Anglo-French treaty of 1514.

More recently, the Queen has received several unusual ‘live’ gifts on her travels, including two tortoises given in the Seychelles in 1972; a seven-year-old bull elephant, called Jumbo presented by the President of Cameroon in 1972 to mark the Queen's silver wedding; a canary given after the state visit to West Germany; a couple of black beavers courtesy of Canada and a collection of jaguars and sloths from Brazil.

Unusual gifts from the North-East include the priceless gift of a good night’s sleep.

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In 1990, the will of multi-millionaire farmer, Sir Joseph Nickerson, who had an estate at Middleton-in-Teesdale, directed his trustees to give eight pillows to Prince Charles on his 10th, 20th, 30th and 40th wedding anniversaries. The pillows were made to the same specification as those Sir Joseph gave to the Prince as a wedding gift in 1981.

Sir Joseph also gave £1,000 to the Royal Agricultural Society of England for the purchase of extra fittings for the President's washroom in the Royal pavilion of the society showground, at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

In 1992, Charles received a signed Middlesbrough shirt on a visit to the Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Children at a County Durham primary school came up with an unusual idea for a 100th birthday gift for the Queen Mother in 2000. Youngsters at Dean Bank Primary School, Ferryhill, created a papier mache hat and sent it to Clarence House in time for her centenary celebrations.