Those who only know the Royal Family through press tittle-tattle would be surprised to find how normal they are. Above all else, "The Firm" is a family, and never more so than during the festive season. This year, though, there will be a sense of anticipation as the royals gather at Sandringham. An important new person will be in their midst – none other than the future Princess Catherine. So what can Kate Middleton expect at her first royal Christmas?
There will be surprises. It is traditional that Nanny Woods, who once looked after Prince Charles and Princess Anne, prepares Christmas stockings for younger members of the family. Now in her eighties, the veteran royal retainer has moments of confusion. There has been concern that, after she read press reports of Kate's appearance at the launch of an adult product, Nanny Woods has been combing local toy shops for a Rampant Rabbit to give her.
On the day, Kate will have been told to dress smartly but soberly – Sarah Ferguson's position in the Royal Family was never the same after she appeared in a low-cut Santa costume. The Queen is something of a stickler for festive correctness, and rumoured to be dismayed by the personalised card sent by the Middleton parents, showing them standing before a Christmas tree with coloured lights. Cards with a religious theme are preferred in the royal household.
A highlight of the day will be the afternoon party games, which will contain a surprise for the Sandringham debutante. It is an established royal custom that one the games played is "The Farmer Wants A Wife", where the entire family gathers in a circle, holding hands. The farmer, who is usually Prince Charles, stands in the middle of the circle and picks a "wife" from one of the other guests. The wife, replacing him, picks a child. The child picks a dog, the dog picks a bone – which is always the newest member of the family! The cry goes up, "We all pick the bone!" The newcomer has to crouch down as the Royal Family, amid much laughter, picks at it.
"The game is something of an initiation ceremony," a royal insider reveals. "Diana became rather tearful. Fergie barked irritatingly for the rest of the day." Careful Kate should be aware that her future as a princess will be judged by what sort of bone she is!