No one understands the comfort of Christmas traditions better than the Queen. No matter who’s in the Royal bubble around the linen-clad table, you can bet your last dollop of brandy butter that the time-honoured festivities won’t alter one jot.
The Queen starts signing her cards in September (she has 750 to send) and by Christmas Eve, all the plans are in place. So what’s it like to be a guest of the regal household? Here, we share an exclusive peek at Her Majesty’s diary…
The royals on Christmas Eve
For 32 years, the Royals have celebrated at Sandringham House in Norfolk. Everyone invited is given a specific time to arrive, according to status. The later your slot, the more important you are.
The children help put the final decorations on the trees, one a 20ft spruce, the other an artificial silver. Their nannies keep a watchful eye because in pride of place are glass angels that once belonged to Queen Victoria.
A game of football takes place between family and staff. One year, Team William wore Aston Villa socks, while Team Harry wore Arsenal.
In keeping with their German heritage, the family exchange presents early. Staff are included, provided they’ve done at least a year’s service, and line up in order of seniority to receive a voucher and Christmas pudding. Sandwiches, scones and cakes are on offer.
In evening dress, the family gather for Champagne before a formal dinner. The Queen may have a Martini or Zaza (Dubonnet with gin and lemon). Her husband prefers pale ale.
The royals on Christmas Day
The Royals awake to stockings containing gifts and fruit. Breakfast is hearty, including eggs, bacon and kippers; the ladies may take toast and tea in their rooms.
The family attend a 45-minute morning service at St Mary Magdalene Church. Usually, they spend time chatting to well-wishers afterwards.
According to a ritual dating back to the 1900s, when King Edward VII was concerned about underfeeding, everyone is asked to weigh themselves on antique scales before and after eating.
It’s a traditional feast of turkey (from a local butcher) and all the trimmings. When the meat has been carved, the chef is given a glass of whisky and the Queen makes a toast. The Christmas pudding, made a year in advance to mature, is served with brandy butter. Crackers are pulled and HRH insists on reading out the corny jokes.
Everyone sits to watch the Queen’s speech on TV (she described 2019 as ‘bumpy’, so breath will certainly be bated for her apt description of 2020).
Then it’s teatime (fruit cake, gingerbread biscuits and mince pies – royal chefs make over 1,200 a year!) Followed by a buffet, with 15-20 dishes and chefs carving the meats. By now, guests must be dreading what those ancient scales will say!