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Meghan will find Royal Christmas at Sandringham like "Downton Abbey on speed" says former Royal butler

PUBLISHED: 10:38 15 December 2018 | UPDATED: 12:14 24 December 2018

The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle  at Sandringham last Christmas  Picture: Paul John Bayfield

The Duke and Dutchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at Sandringham last Christmas Picture: Paul John Bayfield

PAUL JOHN BAYFIELD

The Royal family's Christmas gathering in Norfolk is like "Downton Abbey on speed", according to a former Royal butler.

Sandringham House, where the Royals spend Christmas  Picture: Ian BurtSandringham House, where the Royals spend Christmas Picture: Ian Burt

Paul Burrell, a former footman and butler to Diana, Princess of Wales, said Meghan Markle would be transported into “another reality” when she and her husband Prince Harry arrive at Sandringham on Christmas Eve.

“It’s the most intense period of the year, I’ve been there for so many Christmases, this house is occupied by some of the biggest personalities and egos in the country,” he told Mail Online.

“All these people are members of the royal family, they are all larger than life, have character to go with it. Everyone is jostling for position and attention, and they’re bouncing off the walls after four days. It’s like a pinball machine.

“They all want to please the Queen and want airtime with her, it’s the one time that they can sit down with the head of the family and make an impression.”
The Queen is expected to travel to Norfolk next week to oversee festive preparations on her estate.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh leave church after the Christmas Day service  Picture: Paul John BayfieldThe Queen and Duke of Edinburgh leave church after the Christmas Day service Picture: Paul John Bayfield

Mr Burrell said the Christmas break provided family members with a rare opportunity to spend “airtime” with her.

He said: “The best time to do it is when she’s seated at her card table, before and after dinner, she will sit and play bridge or canasta and she’ll always ask people to join her, that’s your chance to get quality time and tell the monarch what you’re thinking and feeling.”
Mr Burrell, now 60, left the service of the Royal Family after the death of Diana, in 1997. In 2003, he published his memoirs.

He was present at Sandringham on numerous occasions over Christmas. He said Meghan Markle would find her stay in Norfolk “intense”.

He adds: “I personally think she’s finding it tough in there, no one could prepare her for it, not even on a film set, but this is the real world. Imagine Downton, but ramp it up. Sandringham is Downton Abbey on speed.

“This Christmas will be like nothing she’s experienced - a British royal family that is ‘entrenched in history, tradition, protocol, timetables - it’s a strict world, it’s a world Meghan’s not used to.”
The Queen usually travels to Norfolk a few days before Christmas to oversee preparations, including choosing the tree which will be the centrepiece at the house.

Family members arrive in strict order of seniority on Christmas Eve. During the evening, they open their presents - famously competing to see who can buy the cheapest, tackiest gift.

On Christmas Day, the entire family usually attends morning service at the tiny Sandringham Church, before sitting down to Christmas dinner.

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