The Queen has a martini at Christmas and Prince Philip puts the star on top of the tree, documentary reveals


THE royal family retreat to the Sandringham estate every year for their annual Christmas celebrations, with a host of traditions and quirks observed.

The Queen is well-known for taking public transport a seat in the first class carriage of a train to the sprawling estate in Norfolk.

The Queen retreats to her estate with members of the royal family

And while the family are all snapped on Christmas morning attending church, there are a number of customs which take place behind closed doors in the run-up to the big day.

A Channel 5 documentary, Inside Sandringham: Holidaying with the Queen, has lifted the lid on Christmas with the royals.

Traditions are observed before the royals even arrive, with a strict pecking order dictating when each member should arrive.

The more junior royals arrive first, followed by the higher-ranking family members, including Prince Charles and Camilla, with the Queen then making her way there.

The royals head to church on Christmas morning

Before she can board the train for Norfolk, the 93-year-old has to oversee festive preparations at all royal residences.

The Queen approves royal decorations at all official royal residences, with royal commentator Dickie Arbiter revealed the monarchs many trees would look very familiar.

He said: It is decorated in much the same way as people throughout the United Kingdom decorate their tree.

Youve got the baubles, the tinsel, the coloured lights.

The royal family head to Sandringham every year for Christmas

And the tree at Sandringham is finished by none other than Prince Philip, who puts a gold star at the top of three.

One of the royal rituals is decorating the 20ft spruce felled in the grounds with The Duke of Edinburgh still retaining his important role.

Royal expert, Claudia Joseph, said: Prince Philip will always put the gold star on the top of the tree, and probably will continue to do so for the rest of his life.

Hes quite a stalwart and wont let other people take control.

When any young children come they put their own decorations on.

The 98-year-old also pitches in in other ways, with Dickie confirming the Duke also signs every Christmas card sent by the Queen.

The royals arrive at Sandringham in pecking order

Dickie added: The Queen signs every Christmas card she sends, as does Prince Philip.

Theres no stencilling or faxing or anything like that, and the card count runs into hundreds.

All the staff get a card, then friends get a card.

There are people youve got send cards to and people you want to send cards to, but every card is signed by both of them.

The Queen takes public transport to Norfolk

And on the big day, the royal family enjoy a breakfast buffet, where they serve themselves which is known as mucking in – although the Queen is still served by staff.

Palace recruitment expert, Tracey Waterman, reveals how the best of the best are picked to work in the royal households.

She shared a trick she uses while hiring new staff and it involves a dead fly.

Tracey said: The difference between housekeeper in a five-star hotel and in a royal Palace would be attention to detail.

Prince Phillip puts the gold star on top of the tree

One of the tests I like to do, to see if a candidate has potential eye for detail, is to place a dead fly, either in the fireplace or on the carpet.

Once the dead fly is placed, I then bring the candidate into the room.

“I lead them into the room, quite slowly, just giving them a chance to glance at the room, have a little look at what weve got inside the room.

Bringing them to the fireplace, maybe highlighting that weve got a beautiful fireplace.

At this point Id expect them to see the dead fly, and hopefully pick it up.

Tracey Waterman revealed she uses a trick involving a dead fly

Its a great test maybe out of 10 people half the candidates will notice the fly.

One out of ten will actually bend down and pick it up thats the special housekeeper!

The Queen also takes time to recognise the hard work by all her staff members over Christmas, with former royal chef, Darren McGrady, revealing she makes a boozy toast.

He said: At the end of carving the turkey, the palace steward brings the chef a glass of whiskey, and Her Majesty raises a toast to the head chef.

The royal family give each other joke presents at Christmas

Royal expert, Ingrid Seward, revealed that the royals serve up stiff drinks over Christmas.

She said: I think the Queen likes a martini, other people would rather have champagne.

Prince Philip isnt a great drinker, he always used to drink pale ale.

So theyre not great drinkers. But the drinks are very strong. So any one thats a guest would be knocked out by these drinks.

The royals then enjoy a sumptuous feast, with menus written in French, with the numerous courses being served until 10pm.

The Queen is also a fan ofstar-gazing and astronomy, particularly when she is at her Scottish residence.

It’s not the only hobby the Queen has while she’s at Balmoral, either, with reports revealing that Her Maj enjoys watching her staff catch bats that reside in the ballroom of the large Aberdeenshire estate.

And the monarch is still horse-riding at the grand age of 93, and often does it at Windsor Castle.