With the long-held belief that the holidays are a time to gorge (frankly, as much as possible) the average UK family’s festive meal will often involve a belt-loosening spread of sausage rolls, turkey, mince pies, puddings and lashings of booze. This seamlessly leads to the latter portion of the day - lounging, defeated, in front of the Queen’s speech with a barrel of Quality Street.
But how does the Queen herself spend Christmas? Not so very differently from us, it would seem (food-wise, at least). Every year, she goes up to Sandringham House in Norfolk on the 19th or 20th December, while the rest of the family tend to arrive on Christmas Eve.
Former chef to Queen Elizabeth II, Darren McGrady, has spilt the beans to Cosmopolitan on the rest:
‘When the Prince of Wales arrives, his valet will take him up to his room while his cargo is unloaded. All of his Christmas gifts get placed on trestle tables for each member of the royal family. The royals are of German descent so they weave in German traditions to their celebrations. After afternoon tea, they open gifts on Christmas Eve, as is the German tradition. Christmas morning, the family eats a hardy breakfast before heading off to church. After church, that's when they have a big lunch that includes a salad with shrimp or lobster, and a roasted turkey, and all of your traditional side dishes like parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts and Christmas pudding with brandy butter for dessert. They stick with the same meal year after year. Once they've eaten, everyone sits down and watches the Queen's Christmas speech. Afterward, they all go their own way before coming together again for afternoon tea and traditional Christmas fruitcake, then they gather again in the evening, where a buffet dinner with 15-20 different items awaits them. It's always a buffet with the chefs at the table carving. They don't do appetisers on Christmas like many do in the U.S. Instead, appetisers and canapes are reserved for New Year's Eve’.
He goes on: ‘Right before the Christmas buffet, the senior chef on duty goes into the dining room and carves the rib roast or turkey or ham and once he's done, Her Majesty presents the chef with a glass of whiskey and they toast. That's the only time the chef goes into the dining room and has a glass of whiskey with the royal family. It's one of the chef's favourite traditions'.
The Queen is not one for extravagant Christmas decorations and McGrady suggests that they are on the understated side: ‘the Royal Family has a large Christmas tree and a large silver artificial tree in the dining room, which is about 30 years old’. And as for the odd festive indulgence? McGrady says: ‘The queen is a major chocoholic, particularly dark chocolate, so she always has a chocolate treat on Christmas’. We wonder if those Quality Streets make an appearance on her coffee table, too.
So this Christmas, when you’re throwing baubles on your decade-old silver tree and tucking into that pre-turkey prawn cocktail, you can be smug in the knowledge that the Queen is doing the same. We wonder what Meghan Markle will make of her first Royal Christmas...
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The couple officially announce their engagement at Buckingham Palace, July 1947