How Will The Royal Family Spend This Christmas This Year?

'The hope is that this Christmas will be much more in keeping with what is traditional for the Windsors and that’s enjoying the festive season at Sandringham’

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Christmas

by Bonnie McLaren |
Updated on

The royal Christmas fanfare looked markedly different last year. Like most families, the Queen wasn’t able to see her nearest and dearest – and for the first time since 1988, the Queen and Prince Philip didn’t spend Christmas at Sandringham, in Norfolk. Instead, the couple quietly holed up at Windsor Castle – on their own, isolating. Prince Harry and Meghan stayed in California, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were at Anmer Hall, their family home in Norfolk, and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were at Highgrove, their Gloucestershire home.

This Christmas things are going to be back to normal, or as normal as they can be for a family that has been so divided this year. ‘The hope is that this Christmas will be much more in keeping with what is traditional for the Windsors and that’s enjoying the festive season at Sandringham,’ Katie Nicholl, author of William And Harry, tells Grazia.

Staying at Sandringham means the royals’ traditional morning walk to St Mary Magdalene church will probably be back on the agenda, too. ‘As long as the Queen continues to make a good recovery, which I understand is the case, then the hope is that we will see the Queen at church on Christmas morning,’ says Katie. ‘Going to church on this day is more important to the Queen than any other and she goes to worship twice during the morning.’

Predictably, the royals’ usual Christmas is formal and, according to Katie, guests can ‘expect several outfit changes during the day’. The family have their Christmas dinner – turkey with all the trimmings – on Christmas Eve, followed by present opening, in strict order of seniority. ‘The Queen loves homemade and joke presents,’ Katie adds. ‘One of her favourite gifts was from Prince Harry: a shower cap with the slogan “Ain’t life a bitch”; she thought that was hilarious.’

Things might be looking more traditional this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the entire family will be back together. ‘The Sussexes haven’t been with the royals for Christmas since 2018 and I don’t think anyone is expecting them to be there this December,’ Katie says. Harry and Meghan are of course an ocean away with the pandemic still raging, but the family’s fractious relationship with Harry is as likely the reason the Sussexes won’t fly over.

‘Given the state of affairs between William and Harry, and Harry’s rather strained relationship with his father, I can’t see the Sussexes seated at the Sandringham dinner table,’ Katie says. ‘Harry is keen to come back to see his grandmother before the year is out, but just when he will come has not yet been decided. There might be a transatlantic call on Christmas Day, but it will be for the sake of the royal cousins more than for William and Harry, I suspect.’

And what of Prince Andrew, who could be facing a 2022 trial in the US after allegations of sexual assault (which he denies) by Virgina Giuffre? Katie ‘expects’ Andrew will be there ‘possibly with his daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren’. She adds, ‘The Queen is close to Andrew and will want all her children with her.’

There is, of course, another reason it will be a challenging time for the Queen, as it is her first Christmas without her husband. Katie says, ‘Last year it was just the two of them at Windsor; this year she won’t have Philip making jokes at the Christmas table and taking charge of the family as he did for so many years. That will be very difficult for all the family.’ The Queen might have given up her nightly martini on the advice of doctors, but, as Katie says, ‘Let’s hope she gets to raise a glass over Christmas – she deserves to.’

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