From the rules of gift-giving to the timings of arrivals and that all-important guest list, get the low-down on how the Royal Family does Christmas.
Manor or Castle?
The Royals celebrate Christmas at their country pile, Sandringham House in Norfolk – not far from where William and Kate and the children have set up home at Anmer Hall in neighbouring Suffolk. Gone are the days of Christmases at Windsor Castle: Sandringham, although still vast, is a cozier and more comfortable place to host the ever-growing Royal family. It’s thought that as many as 29 Royals will be in attendance for Christmas this year!
Oh Christmas Tree…
Did you know that the iconic Christmas tree was introduced to the UK by the Royal Family? In the 1800s, King George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, wanted to bring a slice of her German roots to her new home at Windsor Castle, importing and installing a yew tree as was German custom at Christmas time. Queen Victoria later made the Christmas tree an official symbol of the festive season by including it in a family portrait painted at Christmas time and published in the London news.
There’s a strict order of arrivals for Christmas at Sandringham, with younger and lesser Royals intended to arrive first – apart from the Queen and Prince Philip, who take the train from King’s Cross in London to King’s Lynn and arrive first. Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, are traditionally the last to arrive at Sandringham on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. This year, William and Kate are reported to be bucking the trend and spending Christmas Day at home with their children, having attended church with the Queen and their extended family in the morning.
Order of Events
On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, guests gather in the white drawing room for afternoon tea. The Queen watches over the younger children as they help decorate the tree, and the grown-ups look over the printed schedule of events that they have been presented with. In keeping with German tradition brought over by Prince Albert, the family open their gifts in the evening of Christmas Eve, and then change into black tie dress for a formal dinner by candlelight. The plan for Christmas Day is church in the morning – where crowds gather to wish the Royal family seasons’ greetings – followed by lunch at 1pm. The family will then gather to watch the Queen’s speech broadcast live on television (pre-recorded some days before). The rest of the day is given over to playing games, and preparing for the Duke of Edinburgh’s famous Boxing Day shoot.
The Art of Gifting
You may be surprised to know that the way to hit it off at a Sandringham Christmas is to bring the silliest present you can find. Yep, cheap and tacky is the order of the day here: no place for tasteful knick knacks, cashmere treats or expensive toiletries.
So there you have it: Royal Christmas in a nutshell. How does your family Christmas compare?