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Sandringham

What the Royal Family eat at Christmas

The Queen takes the train to Sandringham for Christmas

Meghan Markle spent her first Christmas in Norfolk with the Royal Family, but she will have felt at home when it comes to the main meal – like Thanksgiving Day in her homeland, it was turkey that was on the menu.

Darren McGrady, personal chef to The Queen for fifteen years, has revealed that the Royals tuck into the traditional bird with all the trimmings for their Christmas Day meal at Sandringham – and then settle down in front of the TV to watch Her Majesty’s traditional message to her people.

Meghan Markle's Sandringham Christmas

Writing for the Mail on Sunday, Mr McGrady said, ‘Right from my first Christmas, I was in love with and enchanted by Sandringham’.

So what did Prince Harry’s bride-to-be find – and eat – for her first Christmas in Norfolk?

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Mr McGrady revealed:

The Royal Family meet on Christmas Eve for afternoon tea at 4pm, often in the ornate saloon with its exquisitely painted ceiling. The tea could include a ginger cake or honey and cream sponge, small cakes and scones, sandwiches (crusts off, served in squares) filled with ham and English mustard, Sage Derby cheese and Branston Pickle or Coronation Chicken*, with a pot of Earl Grey.

The Royals enjoy the German tradition of Heiligabend Bescherung, literally ‘Christmas Eve time for exchanging gifts’. The gifts are likely to be jokey and inexpensive.

Sandringham

On Christmas Day, the ladies have a light breakfast – fruit, toast and coffee - delivered to their rooms around 9am, while the men have a traditional breakfast in the dining room at around 8.30am – eggs, bacon and mushrooms, kippers and grilled kidneys.

After church, pre-lunch drinks are served – Veuve Clicquot for everyone, but The Queen has a gin and Dubonnet and Prince Philip a beer. There will be nuts to nibble.

Seats for Christmas Dinner at 1pm are unassigned – even for The Queen.
There is no starter, and the meal is a traditional affair – turkey with mashed and roast potatoes, chestnut or sage and onion stuffing, cranberry sauce and bread sauce, with Brussels sprouts, carrots and roast parsnips.

The turkey comes from Scoles of nearby Dersingham.

The Queen likes to have German Gewurztraminer wine with the meal.

The Christmas pudding, doused in fine brandy and decorated with holly, is carried into the dining room at 2pm by a steward and lit. It is served with brandy butter and brandy sauce.

There are no coins or trinkets in the pudding – for obvious reasons!

This is followed by a cheese course served with port.

The corgis have their own menus, usually involving fresh rabbit, beef or chicken with rice and cabbage.

Norfolk turkey will be on the menu

Norfolk black turkeys

After Her Majesty’s Christmas address on TV, an afternoon tea is served of Christmas cake, chocolate yule log, mince pies with brandy butter, scones and sandwiches. William’s favourite chocolate biscuit cake might feature too.

A dinner buffet of traditional English cuisine is served at 8.15pm and might include a stuffed boar’s head, ox tongue and boiled and roasted hams, salmon and game, potatoes tossed with hollandaise sauce, sliced tomatoes and green leaves. A separate table has Charbonnel et Walker chocolates and The Queen’s favourites, Bendick’s Bitter Mints.

The men will go shooting on Boxing Day and the ladies will join them in a cottage on the estate for a lunch of beef bourguignon or venison stew with mashed potatoes, braised red cabbage, apple pie and Christmas pudding slices fried in unsalted butter.

The evening meal is likely to be venison with dauphinoise potatoes and carrots, followed by a chocolate marquise or a chocolate pie made of cream, meringue and cinnamon.

It sounds like a diet far, far removed from Miss Markle’s usual Hollywood fare, but Norfolk’s coast and countryside has lots of opportunities to walk it all off!

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* Coronation Chicken was created by renowned florist Constance Spry and cordon bleu chef Rosemary Hume in 1953 to celebrate the Coronation of Elizabeth II. It is believed to have been inspired by the Jubilee Chicken created for George V’s 1935 silver jubilee, and was designed to reflect ingredients of the Commonwealth.

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