Royal Watch: How does the Queen spend Christmas Day at Sandringham?
- Credit: PAUL JOHN BAYFIELD
And what do you buy the woman who has everything? James Marston speculates about the Royals' Norfolk Christmas
I wouldn't call is a secret pleasure but sometimes, when the guests and relations are getting too much and Christmas seems like it's never going to end and I need a bit of fresh air, I take myself off to Sandringham.
Last year I went a couple of Sundays after Christmas to see the Queen and whoever else she'd still got staying. If you time it right there aren't as many crowds as on Christmas day so you can have a good old gawp as they walk past on their way to church. Sandringham has got space to walk around in, things to see, toilets, a nice café and shops as well – it makes an enjoyable day out.
Her Majesty's annual Christmas visit to the north Norfolk estate must be so exciting for those who live and work there, she comes home for the holidays.
I found out some facts about the royal Christmas celebrations – it seems they take it pretty seriously.
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-All members of The Royal Household will receive Christmas presents from The Queen, and Her Majesty will personally hand out presents to some members of The Royal Household at Buckingham Palace and at Windsor Castle.
-Continuing the tradition from her father, King George VI and her grandfather, George V – The Queen also gives Christmas puddings to her staff.
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-About 1,500 Christmas puddings paid for by The Queen (through the Privy Purse) are distributed to staff throughout the Palaces, staff in the Court Post Office and Palace police.
-Each pudding is accompanied by a greeting card from The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.
-As well as donating money to several charities in Windsor each Christmas, The Queen also gives Christmas trees each year to Westminster Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, St. Giles' Cathedral and the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh.
-Churches and schools in the Sandringham area will also receive a tree from Her Majesty.
And, according to the official website of the Royal family 'On Christmas Eve, The Royal Family lay out their presents on trestle tables and will exchange their gifts at teatime.' Sounds nice doesn't it? I suppose a trestle table saves all that bending down underneath a tree too.
I'd love to be a fly on the wall through a Sandringham Christmas wouldn't you?
The Queen, as we know, gets up to Norfolk a few days before – I imagine to oversee preparations rather than to run round with the Ewbank – and guests arrive on Christmas Eve, according to precedence too - Prince Charles last – so everyone knows what time to get there in time for afternoon tea. Then a relax and change for formal dinner – which means a bit of jewellery comes out I suspect – and a catch up.
Apparently the Queen has around 30 guests, not to mention the household, and equerries and ladies in waiting etc - the house must be packed with people. I imagine it's quite a busy time for those in the kitchen too.
I've been round the house a few times and I often wonder where they all sit – the house is big but it isn't enormous, I suppose there are enough rooms though and The Queen won't be short of the odd chair.
Inside the dining room gives a clue to what it must be like – elegant, candlelit, comfortable.
I'm never sure how the commentators know these things but on Christmas day apparently they all have a full English breakfast, church, a turkey lunch at 1.15pm, a watch of the Queen's speech at 3pm, a little walk (or nap), and a serve yourself buffet in the evening to give the staff a little break. Games too I imagine.
I can't imagine the royal family eating a prawn ring followed by a bird in a bird in a bird from Lidl, or tucking into an evening selection of bridge rolls, Wotsits and an egg mayo vol-au-vent, nor can I imagine Camilla rushing round King's Lynn Sainsbury's because she's forgotten the bread sauce. Nonetheless I expect while the food and setting might be a little different the overall idea – a family time – is pretty similar to the rest of us.