King Charles to keep alive the royals’ traditional Christmas at Sandringham

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King Charles, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Sandringham on Christmas Day in 2018 - Joe Giddens/PA Archive
King Charles, the Prince and Princess of Wales and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Sandringham on Christmas Day in 2018 - Joe Giddens/PA Archive

Christmas would not be Christmas without the Royal family on parade at Sandringham - and it is a tradition the King is expected to keep alive, as he seeks to maintain a sense of continuity.

The royals will gather at the King’s Norfolk estate in December to mark the first festive season any of them have known without Queen Elizabeth II at the helm, sources believe.

It will likely be the first time all generations will be seen en masse since the late Queen’s funeral.

Similarly, the King is likely to maintain the services of the royal piper, who has played beneath the sovereign’s window every morning since Queen Victoria’s reign.

Described by those who know him as a “stickler for tradition”, the monarch is acutely aware of the sense of stability that the institution must convey.

“His philosophy is that the monarchy is the constant state, inhabited by different individuals,” said one source close to him.

“The family traditions will continue as much as those of state.”

While the King will undoubtedly introduce his own traditions and will reign in a different way to his mother, he will maintain the many rituals the public is accustomed to.

They include Trooping the Colour, the monarch’s annual birthday parade, which dates back to the time of Charles II and is celebrated in June.

The King’s birthday is Nov 14 but, just like his predecessors, he will now enjoy a second “official” birthday, when the Household Division troops the King’s colour and he takes the salute.

King Charles, Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of York and other members of the Royal family watch a flypast during Trooping the Colour in June 2019 - Max Mumby/Indigo/ Getty Images Europe
King Charles, Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of York and other members of the Royal family watch a flypast during Trooping the Colour in June 2019 - Max Mumby/Indigo/ Getty Images Europe

However next year’s Trooping might be abandoned if, as expected, his coronation falls around that date.

The late Queen always arrived at Sandringham in late December and stayed until after the anniversary of her accession on Feb 6.

The King is expected to stick to his own calendar of travel rather than adopting his mother’s, which would mean a much shorter stay in Norfolk over the festive season. He tends to spend January at Birkhall, his home in Scotland.

The late Queen’s piper played for 15 minutes underneath Queen Elizabeth II’s window at 9am every day, whether she was at Balmoral, Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace or Holyroodhouse.

The post dates back to the time of Queen Victoria, who first heard bagpipe music in 1842 when she and Prince Albert visited the Highlands for the first time.

Pipe Major Paul Burns of the Royal Regiment of Scotland closes Queen Elizabeth's state funeral - Phil Noble/Reuters
Pipe Major Paul Burns of the Royal Regiment of Scotland closes Queen Elizabeth's state funeral - Phil Noble/Reuters

Successive monarchs retained a piper’s services ever since. The King, who in 2000 revived the position of official royal harpist, is expected to follow suit.

In the short term, while the King is based at Clarence House, that may mean a new location for the piper. It will also undoubtedly mean an earlier start, given his notorious work ethic.

“If the piper started at 9am, it’s unlikely the King would be there to hear him,” said one source. “He would have to start at 7am if he wants his music to be heard.”

The source added: “Charles is a great lover of tradition and I’d fully expect him to preserve the role. He has an affinity with all things Scotland and anyone who has spent time at Dumfries House will know that a bagpiper is a regular after dinner fixture.”

Such is the King’s desire to maintain links with the past that Clarence House, his London residence, is said to retain the look and feel of its previous resident, his grandmother, the Queen Mother.