It’s the first time in 33 years that the Queen and Prince Philip have broken royal tradition to spend Christmas away from the Sandringham estate.
Usually Her Majesty celebrates the festive period in Norfolk surrounded by her extended family.
However Buckingham Palace announced at the start of December that due to coronavirus restrictions the royal couple would spend Christmas together “quietly in Windsor.”
A spokesperson said: “Having considered all the appropriate advice, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor.”
As Christmas gives way to New Year, coronavirus restrictions continue to be at the forefront of the national strategy, and experts have told people not to celebrate the end-of-year holiday in the usual way. As a result, it is expected the royal household will remain in Berkshire to ring in 1 January as well.
But, when the country isn’t facing a pandemic, what does the Queen normally get up to on New Year’s Eve? Does she celebrate with her family? Host a party? Or go for more traditional celebrations?
What does the Queen do for New Year?
The official royal website, says: “The Royal Family traditionally spends Christmas and New Year at Sandringham House. The Queen’s country estate in Norfolk.”
Traditionally the Queen will invite family members to celebrate New Year with her, including those who were not able to join her for Christmas.
It is believed the Queen normally remains at Sandringham after Christmas until the anniversary of her father’s, King George VI, death on 6 February. He died aged 56 at the royal estate, when the Queen was just 25 years old – though she was on a royal tour in Kenya at the time.
Of course this year she will be in Windsor, where she remained for the scaled-back royal Christmas.
Charles Anson, former press secretary to the Queen and the royal family, told The Independent that there is much more emphasis on Christmas than New Year for the royals.
Anson explains: “[There is] a long tradition of Christmas and party games – and things like charades have always been popular with the Queen – that started during the war when they were holed up at Windsor and couldn’t go out because of the air raids.
“When they’re up at Balmoral at the summer period, the queen always gives a dance with a lot of Scottish reels. But that’s more of an autumn event. The Ceilidhs at Balmoral.”
This year he also expects the family will be dispersed and make their own plans within their households.
Does the Queen have any New Year traditions?
When the Queen is lucky enough to be joined by family, she hosts a small celebration and reportedly remains up until midnight to make sure she sees in the New Year properly – and so does everyone else.
While according to Brian Hoey, author of At Home with the Queen, Her Majesty usually enjoys a game of ‘lucky dip’ to celebrate New Year.
The game is fairly simple, beginning with a footman who brings in a tub filled with sawdust and hidden notes, all of which contain written predictions for the coming year.
The next day the Queen is up bright and early to attend St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, just as she does on Christmas Day. This is where the “Fab Four” were pictured in 2018.
Later on New Year’s Day it is reported that the Queen enjoys horse-riding with the family, and there is also an organised pheasant shoot – though it is not known when Her Majesty takes part.
What did the royals do in 2019?
Last year the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge returned to their home Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, before the New Year, while Meghan Markle and Prince Harry spent the Christmas period in Canada with their son, Archie Harrison.
Additionally, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were absent as they travelled to Balmoral in Scotland straight after Christmas.
Sadly this year, the Queen and Prince Philip will be enjoying a quieter New Year as their current residence at Windsor castle is under tier 4 restrictions meaning households are not allowed to mix.