From the queen’s martinis to Prince Philip’s coveted honour: Inside the royals’ Christmas at Sandringham

Queen Elizabeth (Photo: Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth (Photo: Getty Images)

Cape Town – Every year the royals make their way to Sandringham in Norfolk to spend Christmas with the queen. In some ways, it’s just like everyone else’s Christmas, but then again, they also have a succession order in which to arrive and a feast fit for kings and queens – pun-intended.

In the Channel5 documentary special Sandringham: The Royals at Christmas, viewers got an inside look at the lives of Their Royal Highnesses around the festive season and on Christmas Day. Here are all the interesting and surprising things we learned about Christmas with the queen.


The royal family usually spends Christmas morning in church after making their way to their Sandringham estate where they are expected to arrive in succession. That’s right – the younger royals arrive first (though Harry and Meghan won’t be there this year – read more here: Here's why Harry and Meghan won't be spending Christmas with the queen) followed by the older and higher-ranked royals.

According to, Her Majesty takes public transport (a first-class carriage train ride) to get to the estate.


The royals decorate their Christmas tree with "baubles", "tinsel" and "coloured lights" according to royal commentator, Dickie Arbiter.

The former press spokesman for the queen said in the documentary, "It is decorated in much the same way as people throughout the United Kingdom decorate their tree."

But it isn’t the queen who puts the star on top of the tree.

According to Mirror, royal expert, Claudia Joseph, commented, "Prince Philip will always put the gold star on the top of the tree, and probably will continue to do so for the rest of his life. He’s quite a stalwart and won’t let other people take control.

"When any young children come they put their own decorations on," she added.

Every year on Christmas Eve members of the royal family also put presents under the tree to be opened at teatime. The queen gets each member of the family a present and gifts around 1500 Christmas puddings to staff members.

Her Majesty also sends out about 750 Christmas cards personally signed by "Elizabeth R" and "Philip".


According to Daily Mail, when the royal family comes over, they usually keep themselves entertained by playing board games together, after their buffet breakfast. For lunch and supper, they carve a turkey which is served with a selection of other foods. Menus for Christmas day are written in French and courses go until about 10 in the evening.

Royal expert, Ingrid Seward, said the royals pair their feast with champagne, though "the Queen likes a martini", she commented.

"So they’re not great drinkers," she added. "But the drinks are very strong. So anyone that’s a guest would be knocked out by these drinks."

(Photo: Getty Images)

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