A very royal Christmas: Everything the Queen eats over the holiday OLD

Sophie Gallagher
·4 min read
 (Rex Features)
(Rex Features)

The royal household seems designed for extraordinary Christmas celebrations: numerous palaces to house giant Norweigan fir trees, banquet halls to lay on a five-course turkey dinner and staff to help with the washing up. But how do the royals actually celebrate?

For the last three decades, the family have celebrated the festive season at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, with generations of the royals descending for a festive lunch and to attend mass with Her Majesty on Christmas morning.

In 2018, this was the occasion when the “Fab Four” - William, Kate, Harry and Meghan - were pictured arm in arm outside St Mary Magdalene’s church. Last year, the Sussexes spent the holiday in North America but the rest of the firm still went en masse to Sandringham.

This year will obviously be different - just like the rest of the country the Queen’s bubble will be limited to mixing three households. On 1 December, Buckingham Palace confirmed HRH and the Duke of Edinburgh would remain at Windsor, rather than travel to Sandringham. There was no confirmation about who may join the couple for Christmas.

During the 1960s Christmases were routinely celebrated at the Berkshire castle but, since 1988, when the property was being rewired, royal Christmases returned to Sandringham.

Although the Queen will not be able to see all four of her children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren for Christmas 2020, there will be some festive traditions upheld.

What does the Queen eat and drink at Christmas?

Darren McGrady was the Queen’s personal chef for 15 years, accompanying her on two royal tours of Australia and cooking for five American Presidents. McGrady also worked for other members of the royal family – including Princess Diana, and her sons William and Harry.

In a series of YouTube videos and interviews since leaving the royal household, McGrady has opened up about life in the royal kitchen. McGrady previously told Hello! magazine that the biggest food event at the palace is Christmas.

The royals tend to keep it traditional - with a classic turkey rather than other meats. "It was the same meal every year," McGrady said. "They're actually boring when it comes to festivities. They didn't do hams or anything, just traditional turkeys.

<p>The royals at Christmas mass, with Princess Diana and the Queen Mother</p>Rex Features

The royals at Christmas mass, with Princess Diana and the Queen Mother

Rex Features

“We did three turkeys for the Queen and her family in the royal dining room, one for the children's nursery and then more for the 100 or so staff, so everyone had a Christmas lunch."

In terms of trying out new festive dishes, royal chefs are under strict instructions not to use strong flavours, such as garlic and onion, as the Queen does not like them, says McGrady. "The Queen doesn't like garlic... we could never use it at Buckingham Palace.”

For dessert on 25 December, the Christmas pudding would be “decorated in holly, doused in brandy, and the palace steward would carry it, flaming, into the royal dining room”.

<p>The Queen’s Christmas message, 2019</p>Rex Features

The Queen’s Christmas message, 2019

Rex Features

Although fond of the festivities, the Queen reportedly only eats small portions - even at Christmas. McGrady has previously said the 94-year-old prefers to have four smaller mealtimes throughout the day.

Paul Burrell, formerly the Queen’s footman and then Princess Diana’s butler, confirmed this on a recent The Secret podcast with Vicky Pattison. He said: "[The Queen] only ever eats very little portions. She doesn’t eat a Christmas dinner like we do where it is piled high and you can’t see each other across the table.”

To drink, the Queen’s favourite tipple is known to be a gin and Dubonnet or a flute of champagne.

Does the Queen help with cooking?

McGrady says in one of his videos that the Queen does not cook for herself but that Prince Philip was an “amazing chef” and regularly enjoyed cooking on the grill and having family BBQs on the Balmoral estate.

He also described how the younger royals like William, Kate, Meghan and Harry, all enjoy cooking, while the Queen herself stays out of the kitchen.

But, Mr Burrell says, the Queen does “like to wash up”. “She puts on the marigolds and when she goes out to the log cabin at Balmoral she is stood there with her marigolds on and she washes up and the lady in waiting dries,” he explained.

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