What do the royals have for Christmas dinner?

The royal family’s Christmas dinner is a grand affair filled with tradition, decadence and strict protocol. As one of the most important meals of the year for the British monarchy, the Christmas feast at Sandringham House offers a glimpse into the culinary tastes and traditions of the royal family. While the menu draws on classic British cuisine, it also incorporates continental influences befitting the royal pedigree. Understanding what foods comprise the royal Christmas dinner provides insight into the customs of the British monarchy.

When and where does the royal family celebrate Christmas?

The royal family spends Christmas together at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, England. The Queen typically arrives at Sandringham House shortly before Christmas, often by train from London, and stays until early February. Prince Charles and Camilla also spend Christmas at Sandringham, as do Prince William, Kate Middleton and their children when they are not spending Christmas with Kate’s family. Other royal family members drop in for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day on December 26th, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

The royal family celebrates Christmas together in Sandringham’s ornate dining room on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Around 30 close family members attend the gatherings. The children receive gifts on Christmas Eve in Sandringham’s Red Drawing Room from their parents and grandparents, as per German tradition.

What time is Christmas dinner?

On Christmas Day, the royal family gathers for their traditional midday dinner around 1:30 pm. They follow the English custom of eating Christmas dinner in the early afternoon rather than the evening. The meal lasts about two hours. Consistent with royal etiquette, the men wear suits while the women dress formally in gowns and jewels. Following a drink beforehand, the royals are summoned to dinner by bagpipes played on the Sandringham terrace.

Who attends the royal family’s Christmas dinner?

Between 20 and 30 close family members attend the royal Christmas Day dinner each year. Attendees always include the Queen and her husband Prince Philip along with their children, grandchildren and close relatives. Members of the extended royal family such as cousins may also attend. The Queen sits at the head of the table, with the most senior family members closest to her. Seating arrangements are strictly adhered to according to royal protocol.

In recent years, the attendee list has included:

– Queen Elizabeth II
– Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
– Charles, Prince of Wales
– Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
– Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
– Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
– Prince George of Cambridge
– Princess Charlotte of Cambridge
– Prince Louis of Cambridge
– Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
– Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
– Peter Phillips
– Autumn Phillips
– Anne, Princess Royal
– Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence
– Zara Tindall
– Mike Tindall

What is on the menu for the royal family’s Christmas dinner?

The royal Christmas Day dinner showcases fine British cuisine and traditions. The royal chef prepares the meal, which typically features:


– Smoked salmon or prawn cocktail

Main Course:

– Roast turkey with stuffing
– Roast potatoes
– Mashed potatoes
– Creamed brussels sprouts
– Carrots
– Roast parsnips
– Cranberry sauce
– Bread sauce


– Christmas pudding
– Brandy butter
– Chocolate cake

The turkey takes pride of place as the centerpiece of the meal. The royal family prefers Norfolk turkeys bred locally at Sandringham. Turkey is traditionally served with cranberry sauce and gravy. For the stuffing, the royal chef uses a recipe reputedly created by Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI. It contains onions, nuts, lemon, breadcrumbs and herbs.

Goose or ham is sometimes served as an alternative to turkey. Prime rib roast or roasted chicken may also make an appearance. For side dishes, the royal menu favors seasonal roasted vegetables like parsnips, potatoes and brussels sprouts. Traditional rich sauces accompany the meats, including bread sauce made of milk thickened with bread crumbs.

For dessert, Christmas pudding is the pièce de résistance. The royal puddings are made up to a year in advance and include alcohol for flambée. Brandy butter and chocolate cake round out the meal. The puddings are often prepared by local manufacturer Matthew Walker Christmas Puddings, according to the royal warrant.

Do the royals eat Christmas crackers?

Christmas crackers are a beloved British tradition and the royal family is no exception. Royals young and old don elaborate paper crowns from their crackers. The Queen insists that minimal crumbs appear on the table, so the Christmas crackers provide a rare opportunity for rowdy fun. Along with snacks, jokes and paper crowns, the royal crackers contain luxurious gifts and trinkets. Whoever gets the larger half of the cracker keeps the prizes.

What do the royals drink with their Christmas dinner?

The royal Christmas dinner features fine wines and champagne. The Queen reportedly prefers a dry gin martini before dinner. The traditional wine selection includes:

– Haut-Brion red wine
– Meursault white wine
– Champagne
– Sauternes dessert wine

As a long-standing tradition, the royals toast the health of absent family and friends using a champagne produced from vines in the Windsor Great Park. Prince Charles continues his family’s tradition of modifying the champagne recipe to his preferences. Non-alcoholic drinks are provided for children and non-drinkers.

Who cooks the royal family’s Christmas dinner?

The royal family employs an elite team of chefs to prepare banquets throughout the year. For Christmas lunch, the executive chef of the Queen’s Royal Household takes the helm with a team of assistants from the Sandringham kitchens.

The executive chef since 2017 has been Mark Flanagan, who oversees all dining for the royal family. He previously served as head chef at the Buckingham Palace kitchens for 11 years. The Sandringham chefs meticulously follow traditional royal recipes to deliver an impeccable holiday meal to the royal diners.

What are some notable royal traditions around Christmas dinner?

Beyond the meal itself, several quirky traditions dictate the customs around the royal family’s Christmas dinner:

– The royals weigh themselves before and after Christmas dinner, to see how much weight they’ve gained.

– They open gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, as per German tradition. The Queen’s grandfather King George V started this custom.

– The Queen insists on a rotations of place settings so people don’t sit in the same seat each year.

– Until 1999, turkey was served to the royals by royal staff wearing gloves. Diana, Princess of Wales, did away with this custom as unhygienic.

– The Queen asks each guest for a detailed description of their Christmas activities, requiring forensic detail.

– The family enjoy Christmas television specials like “Downton Abbey.” Television is banned during dinner.

– They attend church services on Christmas morning before dinner. The public gathers to watch their procession.

– After dinner, the royals take a long walk around the Sandringham Estate before gathering to watch the Queen’s Christmas Message on television.

How does royal Christmas differ from an average family’s?

While every family’s Christmas may look a little different, the royal family’s Christmas celebrations are truly fit for a queen. Some key differences from a typical British family Christmas include:

– Venue – The royals dine in Sandringham’s magnificently decorated dining room instead of at home.

– Guest list – Most families do not host 20-30 extended relatives and guests.

– Menu – Few households can afford multiple courses prepared by professional chefs.

– Dress code – The royals’ formal attire differs from the typical Christmas jumpers and casual wear.

– Gifts – Royal gift-giving includes elaborate luxury presents beyond the budget of ordinary families.

– Activities – From church services to walks around the estate, the royals’ traditions are more elegant and formal than average households.

– Staff – The royals employ chefs, servants and other staff to deliver a seamless Christmas, while most families fend for themselves.

– Media – The royals’ Christmas is scrutinized by the public in ways that private citizens typically avoid.

While royal Christmases may seem lavish and over-the-top compared to those of their subjects, the core emphasis on family bonds remains a universal thread in homes across Britain and beyond.


The royal family’s Christmas dinner offers intimate insight into their lives and traditions. While inherently luxurious and exclusive, it maintains British culinary customs like roast turkey and Christmas pudding. Sandringham House provides a stately backdrop for this most anticipated meal of the royal year. And yet, the royal Christmas remains anchored in family, food and fun, as with Christmas celebrations around the world. In many ways, the royal family’s holiday experience parallels that of their subjects – just on a grander scale. With strict protocol dictating every element, the royal Christmas dinner encapsulates the public’s enduring fascination with the British monarchy.

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