After two years of celebrating the holidays separately due to the coronavirus pandemic, Christmas for the British royal family will return to normality — complete with gathering at Sandringham, exchanging gag gifts on Christmas Eve and walking to church on Christmas morning.
però, they will be missing their matriarch, regina Elisabetta.
As King Charles III, Queen Camilla and the royals mark the first holiday season since the history-making monarch’s death in September, she will be largely on their minds.
“It will be hard, as the Queen was all they knew, like most of Britain,” a former palace staffer tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue.
The former member of the Queen’s staff adds, “The first year is most difficult, as it is always the first of everything that you notice.”
The family holiday — which will likely be attended by Charles’ siblings and their families as well as Prince William, Kate Middleton and their three children — also comes on the heels of Meghan Markle e il principe harry'S Netflix series, in which they detailed the hardships of royal life, including the Duke of Sussex’s recollection of the Sandringham Summit.
“Ho tale happy memories of Sandringham — it was where we spent every Christmas — and now I was back there in very different circumstances,” Harry said of the meeting with grandmother regina Elisabetta, father then-Principe Carlo e fratello principe William after the couple announced their decision to step back from their working royal roles.
il principe harry and Meghan are not expected to join the family for Christmas in the U.K.
The royals are also bracing for the release of Harry’s memoir — Spare, coming out in January — and what details he’ll share about life in “l'azienda.”
“It is not straightforward and clear cut — some of the issues [Meghan e Harry] have raised are important, and I think both sides probably recognize that,” says a close royal insider, adding that positive change is possible but “will only happen if there is a conversation.”
King Charles will likely reflect on the death of his mother in his speech, continuing the tradition of the monarch’s Christmas broadcast, which airs every holiday at 3 p.m. ora locale.
Says the former palace staffer, “That will resonate with a lot of people who have lost loved ones this year.”
“This carol service is dedicated to Her Majesty regina Elisabetta II, and to all those who are sadly no longer with us. Her Late Majesty’s strongly held values of duty, compassion and faith have guided the creation of this service,” a message inside the program for Canti reali: Insieme a Natale leggere.
As the service began, a film played highlighting how the late Queen was at the heart of Christmas Day for so many people, e principe William read part of his late grandmother’s Christmas broadcast a partire dal 2012.
The Prince and Princess of Wales’ Twitter account posted festive photos of Paddington Bear ornaments in a tree. regina Elisabetta became closely associated with Paddington Bear after appearing in a scenetta esilarante with the beloved character that aired during her Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June. When she died, terminato 1,000 Paddingtons and teddy bears were left by the public outside her royal residences.
Nonostante regina Elisabettaè l'assenza, longstanding traditions will be kept, including gathering at the late monarch’s beloved country estate in Norfolk for the holiday.
“Charles has always been very, very fond of Sandringham,” says royal biographer Ingrid Seward. “Christmas within any family is always about tradition. He will keep it the same as it ever was.”
And Queen Camilla will play a big role in hosting the festivities, despite leaving to spend time with her own children and grandchildren in years past.
Seward says Camilla “will be a real presence” — “she can’t have him hosting his first Christmas on his own.”