It’s widely known that the royals take the end of the year to rest and recuperate after their year of philanthropic pursuits and royal duties.
Just because it’s supposed to be their downtime doesn’t mean that they have a completely open schedule, however. That’s especially true for Queen Elizabeth.
Her Majesty is a busy bee at Christmas. Sure, she’s at Sandringham with her family, but that doesn’t mean she’s free and clear. According to the Queen’s dresser and confidante, Angela Kelly, “The Queen is just as busy as she would be in London, with more guests to entertain.” Angela delves into more details of what the Queen’s Christmas looks like in her book The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, The Dresser, and the Wardrobe.
During her discussion of what the holidays are like for the monarch, she revealed that the Queen undergoes a whopping seven wardrobe changes on Christmas Day. Clearly, we all need to step our holiday style up a notch.
Queen Elizabeth may get whisked away to Sandringham for the holidays. Her days in Norfolk are far from quiet, however. The Christmas holiday doesn’t mean a day off for Her Majesty, who has more guests to entertain at Christmas than she generally does on a regular day in London.
“The Queen is just as busy as she would be in London, with more guests to entertain,” noted her longtime dresser and confidante, Angela Kelly. She’s been the Queen’s senior dresser and personal assistant since 2002, but she started working for the royal family in the early ’90s. She’s shared her experiences in her book The Other Side of the Coin: The Queen, the Dresser, and the Wardrobe.
The Queen likes to switch things up, so each day will contain multiple outfits. Christmas is no exception. “There may be several outfit changes in one day — it could be as many as five or even up to seven,” Angela revealed.
After attending morning church service with other members of the royal family at St. Mary Magdalene, the Queen and her family gather for a Christmas Day lunch. Then, the Queen will sometimes take a walk with her dogs or relax until her afternoon tea. When that’s through, she’ll pick her outfit for the evening.
“I lay out sketches of evening dresses for the Queen to look through and choose what she would like to wear that evening and, occasionally, she may have to pick out a dress for a cocktail party,” Angela explained. She enjoys having everything planned out down to the accessory. Once her outfits are chosen, others are alerted.
“Once Her Majesty has chosen her dress for dinner, a handwritten notice is pinned up in the Dressers’ Corridor detailing what she will be wearing, so that the Queen’s ladies’ maids can select an appropriate dress for the lady they are looking after,” Angela continued. That means that everyone knows not to try and match too closely with the Queen. It does still happen on occasion, however.
“When it comes to the royal family, it doesn’t matter if they wear the same color as the Queen because they are family,” Angela explained. “Other guests though, feel they shouldn’t be in the same color as Her Majesty, although the Queen would not mind if this did happen.” She does seem easygoing in that way.
Dressing up for Christmas dinner is a longstanding tradition for the royal family. It was started by the Queen Mother. “The Queen has followed her example,” Angela explains. The night is also special because it’s when the Queen picks out some of her most iconic jewelry to wear.
“Imagine having such spectacular jewelry to wear and knowing the history behind each piece,” Angela marvels in regard to the Queen’s collection. She also revealed how she touches up pieces if they need a little extra shine. Of course, deep cleans are done by the royal family jeweler.
“A little gin and water come in handy to give the diamonds extra sparkle — just don’t tell the jeweler!” Angela joked. She makes sure everything is in as good of shape as possible before the Queen steps out into any appearance. “A drop of washing-up liquid and water will get rid of any hairspray stains.”
Angela also allegedly helped the Queen make a big jewelry decision recently. Her Majesty decided not to wear the historic Imperial State Crown to the opening of Parliament. Instead of the heavy piece, she wore the lighter George IV State Diadem.
The 3-pound crown features 2,868 diamonds (one of which is the 317-carat Cullinan II diamond), 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 269 pearls. It is worn only during coronations and state openings of Parliament. It wasn’t absent from the event, however, as it was placed on a red cushion to the side of the Queen’s throne.
The Queen joked about the crown’s weight back in 2017. During the BBC documentary The Coronation, she said, “You can’t look down to read the speech. Because if you did, your neck would break — it would fall off.”
Queen Elizabeth will be breaking out the jewels and the incredible dresses in just a few weeks. We won’t get to see all of her Christmas Day looks. We will, of course, get to see what she chooses for her annual Christmas message.