The Royal Family attend Church on Christmas Day 2018 Credit: Getty

    How to have a royal Christmas

    24 December 2020

    Every year the Royal family congregate at the Queen’s Norfolk estate of Sandringham for their Christmas celebrations. Guests start to arrive on Christmas Eve morning, and from then on, it’s festivities galore. Unfortunately this year the Queen will be missing out on her gathering because of Covid restrictions on more than three households meeting together. The Sovereign, like the rest of us, seemingly doesn’t want to pick favourites.

    Nevertheless, how can you add some royal trimmings to your own family Christmas this year? Here are the Sandringham traditions that could inspire a few regal customs of your own.

    Start the presents early

    Most of us think that Christmas Day is for presents. Not so in the Royal Family. At Sandringham, gifts are given and opened on Christmas Eve – as is done in Germany and Scandinavia. According to the Queen’s former chef, this is one of the few times that the children are allowed to join the adults at a Sandringham Christmas. Whether you choose to adopt this rule is up to you; some say Christmas is all about children, after all. (Then again, most parents could probably do with some peace and quiet while the kids put their presents to the test…)

    Why stick to one Christmas tree?

    Much was made last year of Carol Middleton’s many Christmas trees, and the fact that Charlotte and George each had their own tree. But it’s not just Mrs Middleton who can’t stop at one. Buckingham Palace has three separate trees in its Marble Hall, while at Sandringham there is one large Christmas tree, as well as a silver artificial one in the dining room. Of course, it was Prince Albert, the Queen’s great-great grandfather, who brought the tradition of decorated fir trees to Britain from his native Germany in the first place. The original idea was to make the house look like a forest, with smaller trees on tables, and larger ones hanging from the ceiling.

    Swap your bedclothes for your best dress

    Sarah Ferguson once complained of having to get changed seven times in 24 hours at a royal Christmas. If one is going to be truly royal on the 25th, it’s certainly not a time to be eating breakfast in your pyjamas. Time to dust down your best suit and frock and tuck into your turkey in style. Does the Queen don a paper hat I wonder?

    Watch the Queen’s speech

    The Queen may be privy to all the spoilers when it comes to her Christmas Day speech but even so, she still watches it with her whole family when it is broadcast at 3pm. She is getting rather used to watching herself on screen these days as Her Majesty is also rumoured to have seen Clare Foy’s depiction of her in The Crown. Oh to have been a fly on the wall…

    Spend Boxing Day outdoors

    The Royals always have a Boxing Day pheasant shoot at Sandringham, with the men tending to shoot while the women, including the Queen, look on. Last year, however, it was rumoured that Prince Harry’s then-fiancée, Meghan, had ‘banned’ him from taking part in the shoot, as she didn’t agree with it on animal rights grounds. Reports suggest that he and Meghan will be sitting the fun out again this year. Even if you don’t have your own pheasant shoot on the doorstep, you can always eye up the deer in Richmond Park (perhaps leave the shotgun at home), go to the races at Kempton, or the Boxing Day meet of your local hunt.

    Still hungry after lunch? Try wild boar for dinner

    The one festive meal which never changes at Sandringham is Christmas Day lunch. The Royals stick to the classics: a shrimp or lobster salad followed by a turkey with all the trimmings (yes, even sprouts). Then Christmas pudding with brandy butter. In the evening, it’s a cold buffet which often includes a stuffed boar’s head and an ox tongue. Leftover turkey and a ham will do for us mortals – unless you fancy spending Christmas afternoon decapitating a boar and extracting the tongue from an ox. No? Me neither.