How does the Queen celebrate New Year’s Eve?

From horse-riding to church attendance, this is how the Queen normally rings in the New Year

Emily Cope
Saturday 01 January 2022 09:12

Last year marked the second year in a row that the Queen broke her royal tradition to spend Christmas away from the Sandringham estate.

It was also the first Christmas the royal family spent without Prince Philip, who died in April 2021. Usually, Her Majesty celebrates the festive period in Norfolk surrounded by her extended family.

However, the rapid spread of the new variant of Covid-19, Omicron, affected the monarch’s plans and she stayed put in Windsor Castle. She was joined by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall on Christmas Day.

While no lockdown restrictions were reintroduced over the festive season, unlike in 2020, coronavirus cases in the UK continue to rise and the prime minister has not ruled out imposing virus control measures in the coming weeks.

As a result, the royal household remained in Berkshire to ring in 1 January as well.

But, when the country isn’t facing a pandemic, what does the Queen normally get up to on New Year’s Eve? Does she celebrate with her family? Host a party? Or go for more traditional celebrations?

What does the Queen do for New Year?

The official royal website, says: “The Royal Family traditionally spends Christmas and New Year at Sandringham House. The Queen's country estate in Norfolk.”

Traditionally the Queen will invite family members to celebrate New Year with her, including those who were not able to join her for Christmas. 

It is believed the Queen normally remains at Sandringham after Christmas until the anniversary of her father’s, King George VI, death on 6 February. He died aged 56 at the royal estate, when the Queen was just 25 years old - though she was on a royal tour in Kenya at the time.

Charles Anson, former press secretary to the Queen and the royal family, told The Independent that there is much more emphasis on Christmas than New Year for the royals. 

Anson explains: "[There is] a long tradition of Christmas and party games – and things like charades have always been popular with the Queen – that started during the war when they were holed up at Windsor and couldn’t go out because of the air raids.

“When they’re up at Balmoral at the summer period, the queen always gives a dance with a lot of Scottish reels. But that’s more of an autumn event. The Ceilidhs at Balmoral."

This year he also expects the family will be dispersed and make their own plans within their households.

Does the Queen have any New Year traditions?

When the Queen is lucky enough to be joined by family, she hosts a small celebration and reportedly remains up until midnight to make sure she sees in the New Year properly - and so does everyone else.

In his private memoirs that contributed to the book, The Royals in Australia, Sir William Heseltine, the Queen’s former private secretary, said: “Nobody felt it right to go to bed before the Queen did.”

While according to Brian Hoey, author of At Home with the Queen, Her Majesty usually enjoys a game of ‘lucky dip’ to celebrate New Year.

The game is fairly simple, beginning with a footman who brings in a tub filled with sawdust and hidden notes, all of which  contain written predictions for the coming year.

Her Majesty riding a horse at Windsor

The next day the Queen is up bright and early to attend St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, just as she does on Christmas Day. This is where the “Fab Four” were pictured in 2018.

Later on New Year’s Day it is reported that the Queen enjoys horse-riding with the family, and there is also an organised pheasant shoot - though it is not known when Her Majesty takes part.

What did the royals do in 2019 and 2020?

In 2019, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge returned to their home Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, before the New Year, while Meghan Markle and Prince Harry spent the Christmas period in Canada with their son, Archie Harrison.

Additionally, Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were absent as they travelled to Balmoral in Scotland straight after Christmas. 

Last year, the Queen stayed in Windsor Castle over the festive period.

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