Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Sandringham (and Sophie)

One experience I'm lucky to have had, mostly by virtue of living relatively nearby, was to go to Sandringham Estate for Christmas Day.

Sandringham, for those who don't know, is the Queen's privately-owned family estate in Norfolk, England, about an hour from where we lived.  We toured the house when we had visitors one summer and the house and grounds are absolutely lovely. The Queen stays there from mid-November/Decemberish through some time in February or March, but I don't know the exact dates--she's the Queen, and can stay there however long she damn well pleases.

Anyway, while she's there, the Queen goes to mass at the chapel on the property.  People are welcome to wait along the path to wave at her, though photos aren't allowed. However, on Christmas Day, you may take pictures, and, even better, there's a good chance that most of the royal family will join her.  The rest of the family walks the path from the estate house to the chapel while the Queen is driven in, and, on the way back, the family takes flowers from and mingles with the waiting public. In past years, the Queen will also accept flowers from the children waiting, though this year she
wasn't feeling up to it.

How not to dress when
meeting the royal family.
Having lived in England for three years as of last December and not gone to do this (we don't have kids), I figured it was now or never.  So I braved the cold, raw weather (I wished I'd dressed more warmly, though I had no intention of meeting the royals looking like Randy from A Christmas Story) and drove with some friends to Sandringham. The husband chose to stay in the nice, warm house, and I don't blame  him.

Walking from the house to church.

Once we got there and parked, we joined a growing orderly queue (see my Q entry a few days ago) and waited. After a bit, we were allowed to enter a gate and we filled in along a roped-off path--the path the family would use when walking from the main house to the church. We lucked out and got right up front, though we were very close to the gate nearest to the house and not the church.

Walking from the house to church.
Around 11am (I think--it was so cold time seemed to stand still), the gates opened and the family walked from the house to the chapel. And when I say "walked", I mean they were moving.  They were some speedy walkers, and I barely managed to get a few pictures before they were out of our line of sight.  The Queen was driven, and we didn't see her coming or going, unfortunately.

Walking from the house to church.
The waiting began again, and an hour later they began to trickle back from the church. The downside to our placement along the path was that by the time they got to us, the family was ready to go back inside, probably to get out of their high heels and put their sweat pants on.  This time, though, it was more of a stroll.  One of my friends called out to them and said it was my birthday (yes, I am a Christmas baby, so it wasn't a lie), and I was wished a "happy birthday" by the Queen's son, Edward, Earl of Wessex.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex,
taking my flowers!

Prince Charles stopped by to admire my friend's dachshunds she'd brought with them, and Kate and William made an appearance as well, though they unfortunately stuck to the other side of the path and didn't come over to us.  Kate is even more beautiful in person, and no, I don't know how that's possible.

As time went on, more people walked past us, though they didn't take our flowers.  But soon, Sophie, Countess of Wessex (Edward's--see above--wife), came by, taking her time.  She came over to us and seemed genuinely happy and pleased to interact with the people there.  She took the yellow roses I'd brought with me, and stopped by my friend to say hello to her new baby.  Sophie seemed to be having a wonderful time and to be a lovely person.

After, we all went home and I had a bath to thaw out, drawn by my not-freezing husband. Then I put on sweat pants, and I like to imagine that Kate did the same.

On another note, Sandringham also has an orchard that offers several weeks of picking to the public each autumn.  For two years in a row I went with friends to pick apples (I believe they have two or three varieties?), and it's been a fun experience.  Besides the apples for sale, they have apple juice and cider.  If you're in the Norfolk area, it's not to be missed.

*note* All pictures in this post are mine except for Randy...

I hope you enjoyed S!  Time for T...

xoxo Sarah


  1. Oh, that sounds fun! You've got some lovely pictures attached there.

    My latest A to Z Challenge post.

    1. It was fun, but very cold! Thank you for stopping by!

    2. Hello Sarah! I run a blog about HRH, it's so great that people always seem to find her real, genuine, kind & lovely in person!

    3. Oh my goodness! Thank you for stopping by my blog. She was definitely very sweet.