Lethal mar­ti­nis, pa­per crowns and a pub­lic weigh-in – what to ex­pect from Christ­mas with the Queen

Grazia (UK) - - 10 Hot Stories -

AS CHRIST­MAS in­vi­ta­tions go, it’s most def­i­nitely up there; last week it emerged that Meghan Markle’s mother, Do­ria, has been per­son­ally in­vited by the Queen to join the royal fam­ily for the three days of fes­tiv­i­ties at San­dring­ham.

It’s an un­prece­dented move by the roy­als – Kate Mid­dle­ton’s par­ents, Ca­role and Michael, have never even stayed in the main house, let alone been in­vited for Christ­mas din­ner.

Royal in­sid­ers last week told Grazia the bold move is the Queen’s way of ‘em­brac­ing Meghan’s fam­ily’. ‘ The Queen wants Meghan to have her mother there, es­pe­cially as she is preg­nant.’

So the big ques­tion is, what can Do­ria ex­pect on her first visit to San­dring­ham House, the Queen’s es­tate in Nor­folk? ‘A strict timetable, a large num­ber of out­fit changes and a mine­field of pro­to­col and tra­di­tion,’ says In­grid Se­ward, royal ex­pert and ed­i­tor in chief of Majesty mag­a­zine.

‘Do­ria will ar­rive on Christ­mas Eve. Af­ter her lug­gage is un­loaded, there will be a present-giv­ing cer­e­mony af­ter tea. The presents are laid out in the draw­ing room on tres­tle ta­bles cov­ered with white linen ta­ble cloths. There will be an or­der of prece­dence, but the gifts won’t be ex­trav­a­gant,’ she con­tin­ues. ‘ There are mainly use­ful things, such as home­made jams, china or cu­rios bought from coun­try fairs.’ Al­legedly, Prince Harry once gave the Queen a shower cap that read ‘ain’t life a bitch’.

‘ Then it will be time for some lethal mar­ti­nis and a black-tie din­ner.’

But Do­ria won’t have to worry about sit­ting next to the Her Majesty: ‘ There’s a re­ally care­ful old-fash­ioned place­ment, which the Queen does her­self,’ says In­grid. ‘It’s al­ways boy-girl-boy-girl.’

Christ­mas Day will start with an 11 o’clock church ser­vice, fol­lowed by a lunch with tur­key and all the trim­mings. ‘Guests are ex­pected to en­ter the din­ing room in or­der of se­nior­ity,’ adds In­grid. ‘ Then the head chef carves the tur­key and, af­ter lunch, the crack­ers are pulled. Pa­per hats are donned, but not by the Queen.’

Lunch is fol­lowed by the Queen’s tele­vised speech and a brisk walk (‘ To make room for more food,’ says In­grid). Guests will then have tea – fea­tur­ing a gar­gan­tuan iced cake – and a short rest be­fore a can­dlelit din­ner in the din­ing room. Boxing Day is de­voted to shoot­ing; ‘How­ever, Do­ria and Meghan will not be ex­pected to join in, un­less they wish to.’

As the fes­tive pe­riod re­volves around eat­ing, the Queen en­sures that the guests ‘weigh them­selves’ on a pair of an­tique scales, says In­grid. This hap­pens be­fore and af­ter their visit and is a tra­di­tion hark­ing back to Ed­ward VII, who wanted to en­sure his guests ate well.

But de­spite the rigid sched­ule and tra­di­tions, Do­ria will be ex­cused if she gets pro­to­col wrong be­cause ‘she’s Amer­i­can’, in­sists In­grid. ‘She won’t be ex­pected to know when to curt­sey.’

‘It is unusual for an out­sider to be in­vited, but the royal fam­ily does change,’ adds In­grid. ‘I’m sure the roy­als will do ev­ery­thing in their power to make Do­ria feel at home.’

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