From seven fishes and honey-glazed hams to vegetarian platters and mouth-watering roasts, holiday meals can vary depending on the household. When it comes to the British royal family, they’ve been known to keep their Christmas meals consistent and always abide by long-standing traditions – with a selection of meat and classic side dishes.
According to People, King Charles III and Queen Camilla are set to host Christmas at Sandringham House at the late Queen Elizabeth II’s former Norfolk estate, for the second year since her passing in September 2022. Last year was especially significant, as the royal couple were leading the holiday traditions for the first time. What’s more, the family hadn’t gathered all together to revel in their time-honoured habits since before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
King Charles has made it a priority to uphold the practices he watched his mother maintain for most of her life – one of which involves eating. Speaking to Hello! in 2022, chef Darren McGrady – who has cooked for the family over the holiday multiple times before – confessed that the day doesn’t start with a gathering of the entire family. Instead, the men and women are to eat their breakfasts separately.
Eggs, mushrooms, kipper, grilled kidneys, and bacon are on the menu for the men, while the women munch on “a light breakfast of sliced fruit, half a grapefruit, toast and coffee” independently. Lunch consists of a typical feast: roast turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry, multiple bread sauces, and Christmas pudding. The food is reminiscent of what the US considers a Thanksgiving dinner.
“They’re actually boring when it comes to festivities,” McGrady admitted. “They didn’t do hams or anything, just traditional turkeys. We did three turkeys for the Queen and her family in the royal dining room, one for the children’s nursery and then more for the 100 or so staff, so everyone had a Christmas lunch.”
Children must eat in a room apart from their parents with their nannies. “There was never a case of putting a high chair at the table with a little baby squealing and throwing food. It was Victorian,” the cooking connoisseur proclaimed. “The children’s place was in the nursery and Nanny would take care of them. It’s your modern-day Downton Abbey.”
Promptly after a short walk around the Sandringham property and the monarch’s Christmas speech – delivered by King Charles for the second time this year – the family heads indoors for afternoon tea. The tea is usually accompanied by sweet and savory delights: sandwiches, chocolate yule logs, mince pies, and scones. Two Christmas cakes are reportedly made, one for the adults and a fruit-flavoured one for the children.
Dinner tends to be more extravagant, with a delectable platter placed in front of the entire family. “The buffet was when they brought out the whole spread,” McGrady told Hello. “When I was there, Harrods would always give them a whole foie gras en croute.”
“They’d have a whole Stilton cheese. We’d take the top off, pitchfork the top and pour port into it,” he continued. “It made this gorgeous spread for the crackers. It was really opulent. There was also a big York ham that was decorated.”
King Charles has been open about his devotion to organic foods and ethical farming practices in the past, so it’s safe to assume the food will be up to his standards. In a conversation with Country Life in 2021, he said: “It has always seemed to me somewhat logical to embrace a farming system that works with nature and not against her.”