Charles ‘furious’ after being snubbed by Queen in favour of Edward

Lorraine: Russell Myers discusses King Charles' Christmas speech

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The Royal Family have long spent their Christmases on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk and this year is no different, with King Charles III set to honour his late mother’s much-loved tradition by gathering senior members of the Royal Family at the country home. It is well known that Queen Elizabeth II cherished the annual family gathering, not only as a family tradition but also as an important event for the country. This Christmas will mark the first gathering at the Norfolk estate in three years and the first any of them will have known without Her Majesty at the helm.

The family dynamic has seen a seismic shift since 2019 — when they last gathered at Sandringham — having lost both the Queen and her husband Prince Philip. 

Now King Charles and his wife Queen Camilla act as heads of the family, and while the new monarch is adopting many of the festive traditions in a bid to maintain continuity, some changes have been made. For instance, Camilla invited her two children to the royal get-together for the first time, and Fergie has reportedly been brought in from the cold. 

While this year there were empty chairs to be filled, other Christmases have seen the Royal Family pushed for space. On one such occasion, Charles was left “furious” when Sandringham was a full house and the Queen’s rules meant he was deprived of his “favourite suite”. 

Richard Kay, royal commentator and old friend of Diana, Princess of Wales, explained that Christmas of 1999 saw a new addition to the Royal Family and they had priority when it came to accommodation.

“A dollop of seasonal ill-will had descended on Sandringham when Charles was told he would have to yield up his favourite suite of rooms to his newly married younger brother, Edward,” Mr Kay wrote in the Daily Mail in 2015. “The reason was that Charles was alone, and didn’t need it, while the Earl and Countess of Wessex did.”

Prince Edward had married Sophie Rhys-Jones (now Sophie, Countess of Wessex) in the June of 1999, becoming the fourth and last of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s children to get married. 

The newlyweds were given the suite and “Charles, who has a deep need for his creature comforts, was furious,” said Mr Kay, “but the Queen’s rules at the Christmas gathering, where space can be tight, have to be obeyed”. 

As a royal lady, Sophie had “an automatic right to a dressing room” and despite his status as heir to the throne, a then-single Prince of Wales was forced to give way. 

Mr Kay explained: “There is a practical reason behind this. Royal ladies have to bring a range of outfits, often changing several times a day. They also have to wear something different each evening, while the men wear black tie.”

Of course, six years later, when Charles married his long-term girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, he “got his favoured suite back”. 

Camilla, now Queen Consort, was not invited to spend Christmas at Sandringham until after her and Charles’ wedding in 2005. 

“That was one of the most relaxed Christmases I can recall,” said a retired courtier. “On top of that, Charles was especially happy because he’d got his favourite suite back.”

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Charles now faces his first Christmas without his mother and as monarch. When the nation tuned into the King George V’s first Christmas speech on December 25, 1932, it introduced a new era in the royal fold. 

While the festive period will no doubt be bittersweet for the family, it is understood that Charles wishes to celebrate the late Queen’s legacy. 

Earlier this month, the Royal Family came together at Westminster Abbey for the Together At Christmas carol service. Spearheaded by Kate, Princess of Wales, the service recognised the selfless efforts of individuals, families and communities across the country, and celebrated and showcased the joy that human connection and togetherness can bring. 

It was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II and the values she upheld throughout her life and reign, including duty, empathy, faith, service, kindness, compassion and support for others.

The family’s return to Sandringham honours the late Queen’s love for her Norfolk estate, and the continuity of traditions such as the Christmas broadcast, walk to the Church of St Mary Magdalene and exchange of novelty Christmas gifts pay a personal tribute to her contributions as a matriarch. 

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