Christmas, like every other day of the year, is a little different if you’ve been anointed by God to rule over England. Being a royal has its perks when it comes to the stressful side of the holiday. Unsurprisingly, arguments over the washing up are few and far between. Monopoly-based disagreements rarely flair up, since it’s pretty clear that The Queen owes the entire board, making paying rent to anyone else seem pretty pointless. But, despite these major differences, there are some surprising things that make a royal Christmas much like any other.
A royal Christmas is governed by a strict set of traditions and activities that would make even the most overbearing ordinary host think that things had gone too far. While many of these revolve around formal gatherings and events, several of the most significant focus on the dinner table. At Sandringham, free-wheeling is not encouraged. It’s either this way, or a charge of treason and a stint in The Tower.
According to ex-palace chef Darren McGrady, who prepared Christmas food for the family for the whole family for a number of years, the dining traditions begin on Christmas eve. As part of afternoon tea, a meal only ever eaten by people who look like they belong on the set of Downton Abbey, the family would sit down to a snack of “jam-penny” sandwiches - featuring bread cut into the size and shape of an old English penny. There will also be a selection of small, 50p-sized scones, which Her Majesty will periodically crumble up and feed to her corgis.
The foodie regime continues into the evening, where the family sit down to a formal dinner, featuring a selection of specially selected guests. Here, every royal will be continuously served their favourite cocktail. In The Queen’s case, this involves copious amounts of a gin-based cocktail known as “Zaza”. William and Harry, meanwhile, will quietly quaff pints of locally produced Sandringham cider.
Unsurprisingly, the menu for the main event is equally strict. Christmas Day kicks off with a selection of traditional British breakfast items, including eggs, bacon and sausages. As the family head to church for a chance to digest, the chefs crack on with not inconsiderable task of Christmas dinner. According to McGrady, this was much more traditional than you might expect, with turkey an absolute essential. In addition, guests can expect to enjoy sides of sprouts, mashed and roast potatoes, and parsnips. They might be royal, but they enjoy a roast as much as the rest of us.
What really sets a royal Christmas apart is what follows lunch. Unlike the rest of us, who usually slump into a stuffing-induced stupor for several hours, the royals ready themselves for round two, which according to McGrady is even more opulent than the first. It involves an enormous buffet, which could involve everything from “whole foie gras en croute” to an entire “York ham”. Say what you like about the family Windsor - they certainly can eat.
It’s understandable that a family who literally lord it over the rest of us enjoy some extra privileges at Christmas. But, though it would be easy to get annoyed at the indulgence of it all, one can’t help but admire a family that can scoff a whole turkey and a ham in one day. This fact alone should make us proud to call them our Royal family.