The Queen does not mess around when it comes to Christmas, combining a mix of ancient traditions and newly adopted ones. For example, the royals open their presents on Christmas Eve because that’s how it was done in the German tradition, and the royals are of German origin. But the Queen’s approach to buying gifts for her staff? Well, that’s all Queen Elizabeth II.
According to royal biographer Bryan Hoey in a 2013 article for Wales Online, the Queen’s intense gift-giving regime is, like many aspects of royal life, extremely rule-oriented. For one thing, staff members who qualify—they have to have been in service over a year—send a note to the Queen about what they want for Christmas sometime in March.
Next, the staffers—and at the time the article was published there were over 550, including those who worked part-time—have to limit the price point of what they pick. “They cannot have anything - as Prince Charles might put it - ‘above their station,’” wrote Hoey. More junior staff members limit their gifts to £25, increasing for every year of service.
When Christmastime finally rolls around, the Queen hands out the gifts to the staff personally: “Their names are called out by the Lord Chamberlain and they come forward to meet the Queen, who hands over their present. They thank her, saying it is exactly what they wanted, without even opening it. Of course it is. After all, they chose it themselves nine months ago,” Hoey wrote.
And if that seems a bit calculated to be truly in keeping with the holiday spirit, don’t worry. At least one staffer who spoke to Hoey at the time was just as regimented as the Queen:
“There is one long-serving footman who has been there for 28 years and he is collecting a dinner service. So far he has only been able to get a cup and saucer or one plate every year and he told me he reckons he will have to complete 40 years to get the entire set.”
Though the close proximity of the gift-giving likely won’t happen this year, as the Queen has put most of her Christmas events on hold in light of the Omicron variant surge, the staffers almost certainly still got their gifts from Her Majesty.
But one part they won’t have? The annual Christmas dance, which has taken place at various palaces over the years. However, because the guests are allowed a plus-one, it means each staffer is only invited every other year because of space constraints.
Here’s hoping next year they get the full Christmas tradition.