During what will be the Royals' first Christmas since the sad passing of the family matriarch The late Queen Elizabeth II, experts believe that the public can expect several changes to The Institutions' festive traditions.
In addition to believing this Christmas to be particular poignant for King Charles III – his first as monarch – former BBC royal commentator Jennie Bond believes the celebrations will be different to custom, being particularly pared down as some of the family prefer to make their own plans.
"While I imagine there will be a gathering at Sandringham, whether it will be quite as extended as it used to be with the Queen, and with quite as many people, I’m not sure," she exclusively tells OK!.
"Without the linchpin of the Queen holding together an often fractured family, they may suddenly decide to do their own thing."
Jennie adds: "It’ll be the first time since all the turmoil following her death that the royals will stop for a moment and, as a family, reflect and raise a glass to her.
"She leaves a massive hole in their lives and that empty seat, once occupied by the Queen, will now presumably be occupied by King Charles."
After their Christmas plans for 2020 were derailed by the Covid pandemic, The Queen remained at Windsor Castle with the Duke of Edinburgh, who died aged 99 the following year. She also spent last Christmas at Windsor.
"I think the King’s Christmas plans might be up in the air a bit," Jennie explains. "The younger royals will probably want to spend time with their own families, so I think the two or three day celebrations of the past may, indeed, be a thing of the past.
"The younger generation might want to do their own thing for at least part of the time. So they may just have Christmas lunch [at Sandringham]."
She also believes the King and Queen would "probably be happy up at Birkhall", their home on the Balmoral estate in Scotland.
In contrast, royal author Jeremy Archer says it’s unlikely there will be many changes just yet. "It is going to be different, but Christmas at Sandringham works well for the family. Unlike Windsor and Buckingham Palace, it’s a sporting venue and fits in well with their traditional Boxing Day shoot.
"The Prince of Wales has his house, Anmer Hall, quite close by, so it wouldn’t inconvenience him and Kate."
Jeremy believes the Prince and Princess of Wales will spend Christmas with the King and Queen, but see in the New Year with Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton.
For decades the royals have attended Christmas Day service at Sandringham’s St Mary Magdalene Church. The 11am service is a private affair, but the royals arriving at the church is "a public performance", says Jennie.
The season will inevitably be a testing time for Charles and his family, but it could prove difficult for the nation, too. For seven decades, the Queen’s speech has been a Christmas Day staple.
No doubt King Charles will do a valiant job of delivering his first festive address, but the sight of Queen Elizabeth sharing her thoughts on the previous 12 months and her hopes for the year ahead will be missed by many.
Jeremy also believes Charles will make the late Queen the focus of his speech.
"I’m quite sure he’ll spend as much time talking about his mother as he does about everything else," says the author of A Royal Christmas. "He’ll talk about how positive she was and how inclusive she was. It will be solemn and reflective, but it will show gratitude for her reign, her life and all the things she’s achieved."
Royal watchers hoping for a happy family reunion are likely to be disappointed, though. The Queen’s funeral may have brought the family together after a period of unrest, but there’s little likelihood of them reconvening en masse this Christmas. Harry and Meghan will probably remain Stateside with their children, Archie, three, and Lilibet, one.
Jennie believes that while Prince Andrew played an active part in his mother’s funeral on 19 September, an invitation to Sandringham is unlikely to be landing on his doormat at Royal Lodge, Windsor.
"Christmas is always such a difficult time for families, as people are pulled in all directions, so I don’t know if Andrew and Fergie [Sarah, Duchess of York] would suddenly be invited," she says.
Senior royals expected to attend include the King’s sister Anne, Princess Royal, and his youngest brother and his wife, the Duke and Countess of Wessex.
"Edward and Sophie get on very well with Charles and Camilla, so they’ll probably be there,” says Jennie. “Quite possibly the Middletons could be included in the Christmas plans."
However, she believes King Charles will want to retain some of the customs his mother held dear. "I think broadly they will follow the same traditions.
"I think they’ll stick to those traditions like [exchanging] presents on Christmas Eve, but I’m sure with lots of little children running around, there’ll be some presents given out on Christmas Day, too.
"Everyone gives funny presents. Nothing expensive, something that’s amusing or useful. Whoopee cushions go down well – anything that will make them laugh.
Maybe there will be some embroidered cushions with I Am King on or something personalised for King Charles."
Despite their riches and centuries-old traditions, the royal family is, for the most part, just like millions of others when it comes to celebrating Christmas.
"They’ve set this time aside to spend with their family and they want to enjoy it," says Jennie. "Yes, there’ll be mixed emotions this year, but they’re going to have fun as well."
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