Print Comment

Prince George's first Christmas at Sandringham

12 DECEMBER 2013 Prince William and Kate Middleton will take Prince George to the Queen's traditional gathering at Sandringham for his very first Christmas.

Last year the couple spent the holiday period with her parents in Bucklebury because the Duchess of Cambridge was in the early stages of her pregnancy and still struggling with severe morning sickness. So it's only natural for them to be spending this year with the Windsor clan, who thoroughly enjoy the festivities in the splendid Victorian house.

Click on the link for heartwarming images of royals after George's birth.
 



William and Kate will probably head to the Queen's Norfolk estate for the holidays



Guests

The monarch and Prince Philip are often joined by up to 30 guests at the Norfolk estate, many of whom are youngsters.

Prince Edward and Sophie, Countess of Wessex have two, a ten-year-old and a five-year-old who will no doubt coo over their little cousin. Princess Margaret's children Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto, also have two each, ranging in age from 17 to 11.
 



Sandringham has been the private residence of the royals since 1862

 

The Queen has a special affection for her sister's offspring. The Duke of Cambridge is also close to Viscount Linley, who is the owner of the chateau in France where William and Kate stayed last year.

Then there are the little girls of William's cousin Peter Phillips, Savannah, nearly three and Isla, two. His sister Zara Phillips is ready to give birth any day now and may choose to stay close to home in Gloucestershire.
 



Kate's first Christmas as a royal in 2011 



Arrivals

Invitees usually arrive at the 20,000-acre estate from the morning of 23 December onwards in order of precedence. This means Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, are usually among the last to arrive.

Presents

On Christmas Eve guests gather in the White Drawing Room for tea and are given a timetable. The Queen's grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be encouraged to put the finishing touches to the Christmas tree.

It's this day that presents are opened – touchingly for people who have everything they tend to buy each other joke presents rather than splashing out.

Princess Diana was famously taken aback when she presented everyone with expensive gifts at her first Windsor family Christmas, only to find that cheap knick knacks were exchanged.

The presents are laid out on a trestle table in the Red Drawing Room, with tapes showing where each person's offerings should be. It wouldn't be surprising if George's pile is a little higher given the excitement generated by his arrival.
 



The Queen beams as she leaves church on Christmas morning in 2012



Black Tie Dinner

After this Kate will probably take advantage of a break to put George down for the evening. At 8pm a candle-lit dinner is served with the ladies in gowns and jewels and the men in black tie.

The party usually winds up at midnight when the royal matriarch retires, although it may be that Kate as a new mum slips away early.

Church

On the morning of 25 December a full English breakfast is served. Then everyone attends a service at the nearby St Mary Magdalene Church. Royals are smartly dressed with the ladies in hats as the service acts as a sort of unofficial photocall and the chance for wellwishers to greet the Queen and her relatives.

Protective new mum Kate may choose to leave George behind given that a 1,000-strong crowd sometimes gathers.
 



The Windsors at Sandringham in 1970



Christmas Lunch and Queen's speech

Then it's back to the house for a turkey roast. After that everything comes to a halt at 3pm, however, when they gather around the TV to watch the Queen's Christmas speech.

It will be a particularly jolly affair as the sovereign will no doubt make mention of the happy events in her own family. If 1992 was her "annus horribilis", this rivals her Diamond Jubilee year in 2012 as an annus mirabilis.

As in many other households across Britain, the evening is spent playing games and watching TV. The relaxation is needed because on Boxing Day, Prince Philip organises a bracing pheasant shoot.