Yule rules

We ask Peck­for­ton-based for­mer royal but­ler Paul Bur­rell how to make Christ­mas a truly re­gal af­fair Cheshire Life: De­cem­ber 2018 29

Cheshire Life - - Personalities -

We are lov­ing ev­ery­thing House of Wind­sor right now, from the birth of Prince Louis, to the two royal wed­dings and the an­nounce­ment that the Duke and Duchess of Sus­sex are ex­pect­ing their first child. How can they not be a source of end­less fas­ci­na­tion?

It’s been a vin­tage year for our royal fam­ily and they are sure to be cel­e­brat­ing the fes­tive sea­son in some style.

But if the only thing re­gal about your own Christ­mas is lis­ten­ing to the Queen’s speech, don’t de­spair. While we can’t be ac­tual bona fide mem­bers of the royal fam­ily, there’s noth­ing to stop us in­ject­ing a lit­tle bit of re­gal je ne sais quoi into our own cel­e­bra­tions.

And who bet­ter to ask how to do Christ­mas with a ma­jes­tic flour­ish than Paul Bur­rell?

Princess Diana’s but­ler and HM The Queen’s foot­man Paul, who has a florist and gift shop in Farn­don glit­ter­ing with gor­geous fes­tive good­ies, was on hand to take us through the pro­to­col that makes the Wind­sors’ Christ­mas so spe­cial.

‘It’s Down­ton Abbey, only for real,’ Paul tells me be­fore re­veal­ing some fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights into royal eti­quette.

‘First, the ta­ble has to be dressed to per­fec­tion with ev­ery place set­ting mea­sured out pre­cisely us­ing a spe­cial stick.’

Paul demon­strates how the ta­ble might be laid out, us­ing his very own set of Gar­rard sil­ver cut­lery com­mem­o­rat­ing Charles and Diana’s wed­ding, which he couldn’t re­sist buy­ing when it came up for auc­tion.

‘If you have 200 peo­ple for a royal ban­quet you want to see a reg­i­ment of glasses lined up per­fectly,’ he ex­plains.

‘Each guest has their own cruet set with the salt on the right, the mus­tard on the left and the pep­per at the back. The Queen has par­tic­u­lar ones made es­pe­cially for her, and only her.’

‘The wa­ter glass needs to be prom­i­nent as that is the one you’re sup­posed to be us­ing most of all. For wa­ter glasses you can af­ford to have some fun, it can have a fes­tive de­sign or be a dif­fer­ent colour. The white wine glass is next and should be slightly smaller and you hold this by the stem to keep the wine cold. The red wine glass you hold by the bowl be­cause that is served at room tem­per­a­ture, although the Queen Mother used to ask for her Chateau Mar­gaux to be placed on a hot plate, which is sac­ri­lege! The last glass on the ta­ble is the cham­pagne flute. I also think the saucer shape is fun.’

Dress­ing for the oc­ca­sion is es­sen­tial and not only for din­ner. A royal guest might pack for a shoot, lunch and af­ter­noon tea be­fore pulling out all the stops at din­ner, which is al­ways in can­dle­light and at 8.15pm.

‘Her Majesty al­ways changes

“The Queen loves dry Mar­tini, but her pre­ferred tip­ple is gin and Dubon­net”

for din­ner and does so, even when she is din­ing alone,’ re­veals Paul.

‘Of­ten I have seen her in her gown with her di­a­monds shim­mer­ing in the can­dle­light. It’s tra­di­tion. It’s cus­tom.’

Christ­mas Eve at San­dring­ham is a mag­i­cal af­fair and more im­por­tanly than that, it is a fam­ily oc­ca­sion.

‘The Queen loves to dec­o­rate the tree,’ re­calls Paul.

‘The bot­tom half of the Christ­mas tree is left bare so that the Queen can dec­o­rate it with her grand­chil­dren.’

When guests fi­nally come down to din­ner on Christ­mas Eve they are greeted by a trol­ley groan­ing with drinks.

‘The Queen loves a dry Mar­tini, but her pre­ferred tip­ple is gin and Dubon­net.’

Din­ner on Christ­mas Eve is a tan­ta­lis­ing sight. A long ta­ble is dec­o­rated with can­dles and flow­ers. Ex­plains Paul: ‘Menus are printed for each meal, which ap­pear in French on the ta­ble and the Queen de­cides where ev­ery­one sits by us­ing a leather board with a win­dow for each place set­ting into which she slides a card with the guest’s name.

‘Gen­er­ally the most se­nior male guest will sit on the Queen’s right hand side, the most se­nior fe­male on Prince Philip’s right and each place set­ting has a name card, so no­body can be con­fused.’

On Christ­mas Eve, each guest has a sec­tion of the ta­ble al­lo­cated to them, where the Queen places a gift. Then other mem­bers of the fam­ily fol­low suit, un­til the ta­ble is laden with presents, then the doors are thrown open to re­veal the trea­sures within.

Church is the tra­di­tion for Christ­mas morn­ing be­fore lunch is served at 1pm.

Re­calls Paul: ‘The chef puts on his whites and comes into the din­ing room to carve and there is Christ­mas pud­ding af­ter­wards. Then while the rest of the fam­ily set­tle down to watch the Queen’s speech Her Majesty dis­creetly dis­ap­pears and takes her dogs for a walk.’

Prob­a­bly one of his most mem­o­rable sights is see­ing the roy­als gath­ered around the ta­ble wear­ing pa­per crowns from their Christ­mas crack­ers.

‘The Queen will wear a pa­per crown. Yes, ab­so­lutely!’ says Paul. ‘She’ll join in the fun.’

“The Queen will wear a pa­per crown. Yes ab­so­lutely! She’ll join in the fun”

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