Inside Sandringham – the home of the Royal Family Christmas

The Royal Family at Sandringham

Members of the Royal Family spend Christmas in Sandringham every year (Image: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

Queen Elizabeth II spent 32 Christmases at the Sandringham Estate during her reign, so it must be a very special place.

In this year her son King Charles III. continue the tradition after the royal family’s Christmas plans for 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year’s Christmas celebrations at Sandringham are likely to be different than previous years as the late Queen will no longer be at the head of the table.

Let’s take a look back at Sandringham’s history as the royals prepare to head to the estate for the festive season.

When did the Christmas tradition of visiting Sandringham begin?

Although Sandringham seems to be synonymous with the royal family’s celebration of Christmas, the tradition didn’t really start until 1988.

Until then, the royals had always celebrated Christmas at Windsor Castle.

They had to move to Sandringham in 1988 as Windsor Castle was rewired that year and obviously liked it so much they stayed there every year thereafter.

Traditionally, the Queen arrived in Sandringham in mid-December and stayed until 6 February (the anniversary of her father’s death in 1952).

Then, in the days leading up to Christmas, she was joined by up to 70 members of the royal family at the Norfolk private residence.

Sandringham offers the royals the perfect festive break from London as it is 110 miles north of the capital.

Queen Elizabeth the second

Queen Elizabeth II spent her Christmas at Sandringham House, although her Christmas messages were recorded at Buckingham Palace (Image: John Stillwell/PA Wire)

Sandringham was also the setting for the very first Christmas broadcast in 1932, broadcast by the late Queen’s grandfather, King George V.

George V once described the property as “dear old Sandringham, the place I love more than anywhere else in the world” and he actually died at the house on January 20, 1936.

Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI, also once wrote affectionately to his mother, Queen Mary, about the house, saying: “I have always been so happy here and I love this place.” He also died on February 6th 1952 at Sandringham.


Sandringham House is surrounded by 20,000 acres of Norfolk parkland (Image: David Goddard/Getty Images)

The late Queen’s very first Christmas message was also sent from Sandringham in 1952.

After her death on September 8, 2022, the estate passed to her son, King Charles.

Queen Elizabeth the second

Queen Elizabeth II is making her first-ever Christmas broadcast to the nation from Sandringham House, Norfolk (Image: Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The Queen’s three predecessors – King George VI, King George V and King Edward VII – all enjoyed their Christmas celebrations at Sandringham. However, Queen Victoria spent the festive season at Windsor Castle.

What are the royals doing on Christmas Day?

The Sussexes and the Waleses

The Sussexes and the Waleses at Sandringham in 2018 (Image: i-Images)

Christmas Day for the royal family begins at Sandringham House, where the royals enjoy a big breakfast.

Those who live on the estate but not in the house, such as the Prince and Princess of Wales who normally stay at their Anmer Hall residence on the Sandringham Estate, will ensure they arrive at the house on time in the mornings.

Amner Hall

A general view of the front of Anmer Hall on the Sandringham Estate (Image: Getty)

After breakfast, the royals make their way to the 11am Christmas service, walking from Sandringham House to St Mary Magdalene Church.

Hundreds of well-wishers flock each year to catch a glimpse of the royals on their Christmas walk, which this year will see young Prince Louis for the first time.

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene

The Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Photo: Radcliffe/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

William and Kate

William and Kate arrive at the church in 2018 (Image: PA)

After the service they make their way back to Sandringham House.

They will then enjoy a private lunch and then everyone sits down to watch the Christmas speech, which will be given by King Charles for the first time this year.

In the evening, the royals enjoy a buffet with up to 20 different dishes.

Sandringham in 1894

The dining room at Sandringham in Norfolk, pictured in 1894 (Image: Getty)

One thing the royals don’t do is open presents on Christmas Day.

Instead, they open their gifts on Christmas Eve after afternoon tea, as is traditional in Germany.

According to former royal chef Darren McGrady, the decoration of the house is rather subtle.

He told Good Housekeeping in 2016, “The Queen isn’t lavish, so the decor is minimal. The Royal family have a large Christmas tree and a large artificial silver tree in the dining room which is around 30 years old.”

What do the royals eat on Christmas Day?

McGrady says the royals enjoy a “hard” breakfast before heading to church and then eat a big lunch.

He said, ‘After church there’s a big lunch that includes a salad with shrimp or lobster and a roast turkey and all your traditional side dishes like parsnips, carrots, Brussels sprouts and Christmas pudding with brandy butter for dessert,’ he said.

“They stick to the same meal year after year.”

As for the buffet, he adds: “It’s always a buffet where the chefs carve at the table. There are no appetizers at Christmas. Appetizers and canapés are reserved for New Year’s Eve.’

MORE : Royals unite in matching burgundy coats for Kate Middleton’s Christmas carol concert — here’s how to get the look

MORE: How did the royal family start? Inside Sandringham - the home of the Royal Family Christmas

Justin Scacco

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