Why Sandringham House became the Queen’s Christmas residence over Windsor Castle

The Queen has been hosting Christmas for the Royal Family at Sandringham House since 1988

Why Sandringham House became the Queen’s Christmas residence over Windsor Castle
(Image credit: Getty)

If you've ever wondered why the Queen traditionally celebrates Christmas at Sandringham House instead of her beloved Windsor Castle, you've come to the right place. 

It’s official—the Queen has canceled Christmas at Sandringham House, amid ongoing fears of rising Covid rates. 

The 95-year-old monarch had originally hoped to host the Royal Family for its traditional two-day celebration at the iconic Norfolk estate, but confirmed on Monday that she will instead be remaining at Windsor Castle for the festive holiday. 

Buckingham Palace has assured fans that Her Majesty will be joined by her royal relatives, who will follow “all appropriate guidelines” to minimize the risk of infection. 

It has not yet been revealed which family members will attend, but with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge less than an hour's drive away at Kensington Palace, it’s expected they’ll make the journey. Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla are also rumored to be driving up from Clarence House for the reunion on Friday. 


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expected to join the Queen at Windsor this Christmas 

(Image credit: Getty)

The last-minute switch marks the second year in a row that the Queen has missed Christmas at Sandringham, with Covid-19 restrictions forcing her to stay at Windsor with her husband, the late Duke of Edinburgh, in 2020. 

Her Majesty is now facing her first Christmas without Prince Philip, who died aged 99 in April. 

Why does the Royal Family celebrate Christmas at Sandringham House?

It’s no secret to devout fans that the Queen always hosts Christmas at Sandringham House, her 20,000-acre estate in Norfolk. 

The Royal Family has been gathering at the stunning country manor every year since 1988 for two days of festive fun and much-needed relaxation, as well as a chef-prepared menu of decadent dishes. 

They also attend a Christmas Day service at St. Mary Magdalene’s church, before parading about in their best outfits and greeting members of the public. 

Queen on Christmas Day 2017

Queen emerges from church service with Prince Philip at Sandringham on Christmas Day, 2017 

(Image credit: Getty)

With so many royal residences to pick from (there’s a whopping 20 in the UK alone!), it might come as a surprise that the Queen favors Sandringham for her annual Christmas party. Her Majesty is reportedly most comfortable at Windsor Castle, her Berkshire home, spending most of her time there when she’s off-duty. 

The historic property has also proven itself as an ideal spot for Christmas celebrations, having been used as the Royal Family’s December base from the twelfth until the twentieth century. 

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle was once the site of the Royal Family's Christmas

(Image credit: Getty)

While the Queen has never revealed why she ditched Windsor for Sandringham, there seems to be multiple reasons behind the decision. 

It’s likely that the latter offers more freedom when it comes to space, and thereby better options for entertaining big parties. While Windsor Castle is by no means small at 13,000 acres, it doesn’t hold a candle to the size of Sandringham. The Norfolk estate is spread across an incredible 20,000 acres, making it ideal for outdoor royal activities like hunting and horse riding. 


Sandringham House has been used for the Royal Family's Christmas since 1988 

(Image credit: Getty)

The Windsor Castle fire in 1992 could also have contributed to the swap. The devastating blaze destroyed 115 of the building’s rooms, resulting in a five-year-long restoration plan. With so much of the property off-limits until 1997, it simply made sense to hold Christmas at Sandringham instead. The royals could have returned to Windsor for the festive season once the damage had been repaired, but appear to have grown accustomed to the new venue. 

Windsor Castle fire

Windsor Castle fire 1992 

(Image credit: Getty)

Lastly, Sandringham is conveniently near to Britain's capital, where Her Majesty undertakes many of her royal duties. 

"Traditionally the family has always gone to Sandringham at Christmas. It's close to London where she does occasions almost right up to Christmas," the Queen's former press secretary, Dickie Arbiter, told Hello! magazine. 

Emma Dooney
Lifestyle News Writer

Hailing from the lovely city of Dublin, Emma mainly covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health and wellness feature. Always up for a good conversation, she has a passion for interviewing everyone from A-list celebrities to the local GP - or just about anyone who will chat to her, really.

Emma holds an MA in International Journalism from City, University of London, and a BA in English Literature from Trinity College Dublin.