Christmas time is upon us! For the British Royal Family, that means spending the holiday with loved ones at Sandringham.
Naturally, what awaits the royal children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, is probably a weekend full of fun, gifts, and great food. At the same time, reports suggest that they might not stay with their grandpa, King Charles, and Camilla for that long.
This year will be an emotional one for the Royal Family, as it marks the first time they’ll spend the holidays without their beloved Queen Elizabeth. Nevertheless, the children we undoubtedly be swept up in the magic of it all.
The Royal Family has many traditions – some go back decades and decades. Where Christmas is concerned, even the food the royals eat is usually the same.
Unfortunately this year, the children, including 4-year-old Prince Louis, look set to eat Christmas lunch without their parents. That’s at least according to Mike Tindall …
Christmas has always been an important time for the royals. For decades, Queen Elizabeth always held fast to her yearly traditions. She used to spend much of early December at Buckingham Palace, where she gave all her staff Christmas presents and attended a carol service in the Royal Mews.
Royal Christmas traditions
This year will be the first time any living royal celebrates the festive season without their beloved matriarch. Most likely, they will continue to honor her by carrying on the traditions that have shaped the royal Christmas period for decades.
The royals have always spent the Christmas holidays at the Sandringham House Estate in Norfolk. Queen Elizabeth would travel by train to her country estate. From there, she sent out about 750 Christmas cards every year to her family, friends, and other royal household members and government officials.
Some might think that Christmas with the Firm would mean massive Christmas decorations, a tree some 30-feet tall, and their own choir to sing on command. Perhaps that is what will happen this holiday season, but when the Queen was alive, that wasn’t the case.
No, Elizabeth’s former chef, Darren McGrady, revealed that she used to place several Christmas trees around the house at Sandringham. Most of them were real trees, but the one tree in the living room at the Norfolk estate was artificial – the Queen had owned it for more than 30 years.
“The Queen is not lavish, so the décor is minimal,” McGrady told Good Housekeeping in 2016.
“The royal family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old.”
William & Kate want children to have a normal Christmas
These days, with many young children and grandchildren, royal Christmases are certainly more hectic and louder than before.
According to a US Weekly source, Prince William and Kate Middleton are keen on celebrating Christmas with their family at Sandringham. This is because they want to give their children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, a yearly family tradition – not only because it’s fun, but because the couple wants to give their kids as “normal” a life as possible.
“It’s important to them that their kids share childhood traditions like their school pals,” the insider told Us Weekly in 2018.
“They’re going all-out to make it extra special.”
However, this year’s Christmas might not include staying with grandpa King Charles and Camilla for the entire holiday season.
According to royal expert Jeremy Archer, William and Kate are looking to stay at Sandringham for Christmas but then travel to Berkshire to spend New Year’s Eve with Kate’s parents.
“It is going to be different, but Christmas at Sandringham works well for the family,” Archer told OK!.
“Unlike Windsor and Buckingham Palace, it’s a sporting venue and fits in well with their traditional Boxing Day shoot. In addition, the Prince of Wales has his house, Anmer Hall, quite close by, so it wouldn’t inconvenience him and Kate.”
First Christmas without Queen Elizabeth
Another royal expert, Jennie Bond, also believes that the Prince and Princess of Wales will leave Sandringham after the significant Christmas celebration is over.
“The younger generation might want to do their own thing for at least part of the time,” she said. “So they may just have Christmas lunch [at Sandringham].”
Bond added: “I think the King’s Christmas plans might be up in the air a bit. The younger royals will probably want to spend time with their own families, so I think the two or three-day celebrations of the past may, indeed, be a thing of the past. While I imagine there will be a gathering at Sandringham, whether it will be quite as extended as it used to be with the Queen and with quite as many people, I’m not sure.”
As mentioned, this Christmas will be the first without the Queen’s presence. Since she passed away in September, the Royal Family has been mourning. Now, with the holiday just around the corner, it can expected that the emotions will once again flow. Indeed, former royal butler Grant Harrold agrees.
Harrold, who previously worked for King Charles and Camilla for seven years, says it will be a bittersweet time for the family. He stated his belief that Charles and the others will always cherish and remember the joy the Queen gave in her many years of celebrating Christmas.
“It will be very emotional”
“I think for them it will be very emotional this year and I’ve no doubt there are tears that will be shed on the day or the night before because they will be remembering her,” Harrold told the Mirror.
“But I’m sure as well it will be a fun time for the youngsters and it will also carry on how the Queen would have wanted it to.”
This year, Charles will celebrate Christmas as king for the first time. Elizabeth used to hand out presents to her household at Buckingham Palace and Windsor, as well as give her staff Christmas pudding. What Charles will do for his staff has not yet been revealed.
The Royal Family has a formal dinner on Christmas Eve, often including Norfolk shrimp and lamb.
At 10 p.m., the Queen always signaled that it was time for the women to go to bed, as the men traditionally enjoyed a brandy. At least that was custom until 2021, when Prince Philip passed away.
Upon waking up, the family enjoys a classic English breakfast consisting of eggs, sausages, bacon, and beans. Then, after the traditional visit to St Mary Magdalene Church, they eat a Christmas lunch, the main course of which is a roast turkey.
King Charles invite royals to Windsor for Christmas lunch
US Weekly has previously reported that the family members have also upheld Henry VII’s tradition of “weighing in before and after Christmas lunch.”
At 3 p.m., the Royal Family sits down to watch the annual Christmas speech on television – Queen Elizabeth’s annual speech was a highlight for many. This year will mark King Charles’ first time doing the speech.
Christmas at Sandringham is a private event to which only the closest family are invited. However, every year, the Queen used to have a big Christmas party at Buckingham Palace, which many extended royals had the opportunity to attend.
King Charles continued the tradition of the Christmas party, which was held on Tuesday, though this time at Windsor Castle. No pictures are taken or released from the big Christmas bash, but a couple of years ago, Mike Tindal – who’s married to Zara Tindall, the King’s niece – revealed some details of what goes on behind closed doors.
The royals love spending time together, but for the big Christmas lunch, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis will have their own Christmas meal.
According to Tindall, the children do not sit at the same table as the grownups. In fact, they are not even in the same room.
Prince Louis and his siblings eat in seperate room
There are seven tables for the adult Royal Family members to sit at during the Christmas lunch. In a 2019 podcast interview, Tindall revealed how the seating is arranged.
“Is there a promotion and relegation based on the year’s performance? Because if there is I imagine you’re pretty much sitting on the right-hand side of Her Majesty,” Tindall said.
“I was on Prince Charles’s table, it was lovely.”
Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis spend time with many of their relatives during the big Christmas lunch. That includes Zara and Mike Tindall’s children, Mia, Lena, and Lucas.
“This is the family lunch, there were seven tables so there must have been about 70 of us there. The kiddies have their own little one in a different room,” Tindall revealed.
Like many other families worldwide, the Royal Family exchange presents on Christmas Eve after enjoying afternoon tea.
But besides “normal” gifts, the Royal Family like to loosen up and give each other lighter gifts.
Royal family exchange “funny” presents
Though Kate, William, Charles, Camilla, and other royals might seem strict in public, things are different when they spend time in private. As for Christmas, the royals are reported to have one fun tradition. Besides handing each other “ordinary” gifts, they also exchange gifts that intend to bring forward laughter.
For example, one year Meghan Markle gave her new brother-in-law, William, a rather special present.
Over the years, several “gag presents” have been handed to the family members. In 2016, Kate reportedly gave Harry a “Grow Your Own Girfriend” kit before he met Meghan – and William once gave the Queen a pair of personalized slippers with her face.
Meghan, though, opted for a relatively bolder choice. During her first Christmas with the royals, she reportedly handed Queen Elizabeth a singing hamster on a string, which both the monarch – and her corgis – loved.
According to authors Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobiee, her “biggest challenge was finding the perfect novelty gifts to amuse her new extended family.”
Meghan & Harry to not spend Christmas with royals
Eventually, she settled on a brilliant present for William.
“At least one of her gifts was a huge hit—a spoon for William that had ‘cereal killer’ embossed on the shallow bowl end of the utensil,” they wrote in Finding Freedom.
This year marks the third in a row that Harry and Meghan won’t be spending Christmas at Sandringham. With the couple’s new Netflix documentary and Harry’s upcoming tell-all book in mind, that might be for the best.
Royal expert Angela Levin even goes so far as to argue that Harry and Meghan are afraid of the Royal Family’s reaction, so they have chosen not to travel back to the UK for Christmas.
“It’s been said that they’re not coming but it [is] also I think on what the documentary is like whether or not they would be invited at all,” Levein told The Sun.
“It could be a case where the royals don’t want them there after the documentary.”
“It’s up [to] the Sussexes on whether they want their children to know what their father’s family is like – but also it could be a case where the royals don’t want them there after the documentary,” she added.
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