All events involving wider groups of employees or gatherings of the Windsor clan have been called off, including the traditional pre-Christmas lunch for the extended Royal Family. The 94-year-old monarch usually holds a staff party and goes to a lunch, often at the Goring Hotel in London, with her closest aides such as her dressmaker and personal assistant Angela Kelly before Christmas. But in a sign this is anything but a normal year, the Queen is unlikely to do anything outside the small bubble of up to 22 people who have isolated from the outside world in order to serve her at Windsor Castle during the pandemic.
She normally hands out presents to long-serving junior staff who queue up to see her at an event before Christmas but that tradition has also been suspended. Staff will still receive gifts but not in person.
Palace officials have already cancelled several other annual fixtures in the royal calendar, including the diplomatic reception, which normally attracts more than 500 London-based foreign ambassadors and their colleagues to Buckingham Palace, where the
Queen and other royal ladies can be seen in tiaras.
Earlier this week the palace announced that the monarch and the Duke of Edinburgh have decided to spend a quiet Christmas at Windsor. It will be the first time in 33 years that they have not spent it with their family at Sandringham in Norfolk.
However, the Daily Express understands they may still go to Sandringham in January. Normally the court moves there with the Queen from just before Christmas until shortly after February 6, the day the Queen’s father, George VI died, and she acceded the throne.
A shorter winter spell on the 20,000 acre Norfolk estate has not been ruled out.
“They may go up there in the new year but no decision has been made yet,” a source said yesterday. The royal party may still have the option of staying at Sandringham House because it remains closed to tourists throughout the winter.
And although some staff in Norfolk refused to isolate from their families to bubble with the Queen, courtiers worked out a plan by simply taking the staff from Windsor with her.
The option of spending Christmas at Sandringham was certainly presented. Some inside the royal circle thought the couple would opt for it because it has become such a family tradition.
There was also the question of providing a sense of normality to the British public.
But instead the message is that it is not a normal Christmas. And the decision, entirely a matter for them and taken without consulting the Government, contrasts sharply with the mood in Downing Street.
A giant Christmas tree 20ft tall with shimmering lights has been set up at Windsor Castle where the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will spend the festive season.
The Queen’s favourite official residence is being readied with the Christmas spirit early as it welcomes visitors from today after a second lockdown.
The Norwegian spruce from Windsor Great Park is dressed in 3,000 lights and hundreds of iridescent glass, red and gold mirrored ornaments.
It has pride of place in the historic St George’s Hall.
The Queen, 94, who has her own private quarters, has made it clear she will not be attending St George’s Chapel inside the walls on Christmas Day because she wants to avoid attracting a crowd which could spread the virus.
She is likely to spend part of the day instead in worship in the private chapel.
The Royal Collection Trust is organising all visits as well as festive storytelling and crafts for families on Saturdays.
The castle will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.