In Depth

Inside Sandringham: the Royals’ traditional Christmas-time residence

The family usually congregate at the Norfolk country retreat - but Covid means plans have changed

The traditional royal Christmas at Sandringham will not go ahead this year as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Courtiers had been planning for every eventuality, but “having considered all the appropriate advice, the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor,” a spokesperson told Town & Country.

The cancellation means the Queen and Co. will not walk to church together on Christmas morning - an event that usually draws large crowds. “Previous years have seen the Queen welcome up to 30 family members” to the Norfolk retreat for the holiday, says The Sun.  

Where does the tradition come from?

The tradition of the Sandringham Christmas party was begun by the then-future Edward VII in 1864, and was “adopted enthusiastically by the present Royal Family”, the Daily Express says.

During the 1960s, when the Queen’s children were young, the Royals generally spent Christmas at Windsor Castle. But in the 1980s, they transferred the festive celebration to Sandringham because the Berkshire property was being rewired.

They enjoyed the change of venue so much that they then opted to return in following years.

What’s inside?

According to The Daily Telegraph, the house was once described as “the most comfortable in England” and “boasted a shower and flushing water closets far earlier than many others in Britain”.

The main ground-floor rooms are regularly used by the royals but are also open to the public. The decor and “contents remain very much as they were in Edwardian times”, according to the estate’s website.

In 2013, the Daily Mail reported that the house was not large enough to accommodate the 30 guests invited to the Christmas celebrations that year. “Despite being set in 600 acres of woodland, the house is small by royal standards and quarters are said to be ‘cramped’,” the newspaper said.

Guests were invited instead to stay in the servant’s quarters and other nearby cottages.

More than 200 people work at the estate, including gamekeepers, gardeners, farmers and employees in Sandringham’s sawmill and its apple juice-pressing plant, according to Town and Country magazine. “The estate places a huge emphasis on recycling, conservation and forestry, and is a sanctuary for wildlife,” the magazine adds.

The tradition of the Sandringham Christmas party was begun by the then-future Edward VII in 1864, and was “adopted enthusiastically by the present Royal Family”, the Daily Express says. From the 1960s to 1980s, royal Christmases were held at Windsor Castle, but switched back to the Norfolk estate in 1988

Sandringham is also famed for hosting royal shooting and hunting parties.

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