Here's what a royal Christmas at Windsor used to look like

Rebecca Taylor
·Royal Correspondent
·4-min read

Watch: The Royal Family at Christmas

The Queen is planning to spend Christmas quietly at Windsor Castle this year, as the coronavirus situation continues.

It will be a far cry from her usual large family gatherings. With four children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, there can be a large guest list for Christmas with the Queen and Prince Philip.

For the last three decades, royal Christmases have been synonymous with Sandringham, the Queen’s estate in Norfolk.

But it wasn’t always that way. The 2020 venue of Windsor Castle used to be the hub of royal festivities.

The Queen and Philip would spend Christmas at Windsor Castle when their children, Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward, were small.

This continued into the 1980s, with photographs showing Princess Diana attending Christmas at Windsor Castle alongside her then-husband Prince Charles.

Members of the Royal Family leave St George's Chapel after the Christmas service. (l-r) The Queen Mother, Princess and Prince of Wales, Viscount Linley and his mother Princess Margaret in 1983. (PA Images)
The Queen Mother, Princess and Prince of Wales, Viscount Linley and his mother Princess Margaret leave St George's Chapel after the Christmas service in 1983. (PA Images)
Prince William leads the way as the royal youngsters, followed by the Princess of Wales, leave the Christmas Day service at St George's Chapel, Windsor. (PA Images)
Prince William leads the way as the royal youngsters, followed by the Princess of Wales, leave the Christmas Day service at St George's Chapel, Windsor. (PA Images)
The Princess of Wales escorts the royal youngsters after attending the Christmas Day service at St George's Chapel, Windsor. (PA Images)
The Princess of Wales escorts the royal youngsters after attending the Christmas Day service at St George's Chapel, Windsor. (PA Images)

Read more: Queen showing 'real leadership' with message 'it's alright to miss Christmas', says expert

The last time the Royal Family celebrated Christmas at Windsor Castle was in 1987.

Prince William, then just five-years-old, the same age as his daughter Charlotte is now, attended the Christmas Day service with his mother, grandmother, and other members of the Royal Family.

He waved proudly at the cameras as he led the royal youngsters out of the church after the service.

Zara Philips, now Zara Tindall, can be seen behind him, as well as Peter Philips.

Christmas morning church services were attended at St George’s Chapel, which is in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

It’s also where Prince Harry married Meghan Markle, and where Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank.

The family moved the celebrations in 1988 because Windsor Castle was being rewired, and they never moved them back.

In Royal Family terms, it’s a relatively new tradition to celebrate Christmas in Norfolk.

The Queen makes her traditional Christmas Day address to the nation and the Commonwealth in 1987. The broadcast was produced by Sir David Attenborough. (PA Images)
The Queen makes her traditional Christmas Day address to the nation and the Commonwealth in 1987. The broadcast was produced by Sir David Attenborough. (PA Images)
Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal Family leave St George's Chapel in Windsor after attending morning service on Christmas Day in 1978. (PA Images)
The Queen and other members of the Royal Family leave St George's Chapel in Windsor after attending morning service on Christmas Day in 1978. (PA Images)
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, with their two children Lord Frederick and Lady Gabriella Windsor, leave St George's Chapel after members of the Royal Family attended the traditional Christmas Day service in 1984. (PA Images)
Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, with their two children Lord Frederick and Lady Gabriella Windsor, leave St George's Chapel in 1984. (PA Images)

The Queen gave her annual message in 1987, reflecting on the terrorist bomb in Enniskillen which killed 11 people.

That year, she said: “It is only too easy for passionate loyalty to one's own country, race or religion, or even to one's favourite football club, to be corroded into intolerance, bigotry and ultimately into violence.

“We have witnessed some frightening examples of this in recent years. All too often intolerance creates the resentment and anger which fill the headlines and divide communities and nations and even families.”

Read more: Diana's 'Panorama' interview led 'straight to the night in Paris', former private secretary says

Some of the Queen’s Christmas links with Windsor have remained over the last three decades, and she continued to donate money to charities in the city.

She also gives Christmas trees to churches and schools in the Sandringham area, as well as to St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh and St Giles’ Cathedral.

According to the Royal Collection Trust, Christmas has been celebrated at Windsor Castle since the 12th century.

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, who are responsible for much of the Christmas traditions not just for the royals but in Britain, also marked the big day at the Berkshire home.

It was during the reigns of King Edward VII, King George V and King George VI that Christmas began to be celebrated more at Sandringham.

In normal years, the Queen and Philip would stay in Sandringham into the new year as well, attending church on New Year’s Day.

However other royals will head off after Boxing Day, as they visit other members of their family.

Watch: Queen and Philip to spend Christmas at Windsor Castle