A Month-by-Month Guide to the Royal Appearances
The royal family has a pretty rigid calendar of obligations and traditions. While their assorted engagements, tours, and charity obligations don't have an annual structure, there are many dates in their diaries that will always remain the same — no matter what. Why will William be sporting feathers in the Spring? Where will Harry be in the Fall? And why will the queen be sitting in a deckchair in September? Here we guide you though the family's "must-do" dates, month by month.
Post-Christmas, the queen stays on at Sandringham for another six weeks, until the anniversary of her father passing away at the property.
Charles and Camilla often celebrate Hogmanay at their Scottish home Birkhall, an 18th century property on the Balmoral estate that was previously a residence of the queen mother.
Berkshire-to-Mustique is the road well-traveled when it comes to the Middletons' annual holiday to celebrate Carole's birthday on Jan. 31. This year will be Prince George's third visit and Princess Charlotte's first.
The queen acceded the throne on Feb. 6, upon her father's passing, and the occasion is marked every year with gun salutes in Hyde Park and the Tower of London. Having spent the day in private, she returns to Buckingham Palace with Prince Philip.
Commonwealth Day falls on the second Monday of March, and the queen attends a Westminster Abbey service, often accompanied by William, Kate, Charles, and Camilla. Her majesty delivers an address, which is screened throughout the Commonwealth countries.
St. Patrick's Day just isn't complete without a parade, a bunch of shamrocks . . . and a giant dog in a coat (at least if you're the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge). William is colonel of the Irish Guards, so he and Kate always spend March 17 with the battalion, handing out shamrocks. Even their Irish wolfhound mascot gets a bunch.
The queen and Prince Philip head to Windsor late every March for one month's Easter Court. A lucky few will be invited to a "Dine and Sleep" where guests are invited to a private dinner and overnight stay at the castle. Sarah Ferguson met Prince Andrew at one of these events. However, her majesty won't be indulging in any of her favorite sweet treats during this time, as she always gives up chocolate for Lent.
The Royal Maundy Service is held on Maundy Thursday (the last Thursday before Easter) and commemorates Christ commanding his disciples to love one another. It's held in a different town every year and attended by the queen and pensioners who have served their local community.
While staying at Windsor, the queen marks Easter Sunday with a service at St. George's Chapel along with members of her family. Sophie Countess of Wessex is a regular.
On the Sunday closest to St. George's Day (April 23), the queen oversees a parade by the Scout Movement — of whom she is patron — at Windsor Castle.
The Imperial State Crown and horse-drawn coach are dusted down for the State Opening of Parliament every May. The formal start of the parliamentary year is marked by a speech from the queen, setting out the government's agenda for the coming season.
The Windsor Annual Horse Show is one of the queen's favorite fixtures. The annual international competition is held in mid-May for five days, and both the queen and Prince Philip competed when they were younger.
Three times every Summer, the grounds of Buckingham Palace are awash with scones and fascinators as the queen hosts her annual garden parties. The events recognize those in public service — so guests include people from charities, organizations, and the civil service. William and Kate often attend, and the 8,000 guests enjoy on average 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches, and 20,000 slices of cake.
Chelsea Flower Show is held every year at the end of May, and the queen attends as patron of the Royal Horticultural Society. Prince Harry has been involved in recent years, as his charity Sentebale often exhibits a garden.
Trooping the Colour was originally a military parade, but since the mid-18th century it has also celebrated the monarch's birthday and is held on a Saturday in June. William, Kate, and Harry are regulars, and last year Prince George made his debut.
Prince Harry in a top hat and tails? That will be Royal Ascot. Members of the royal family have been patrons of Ascot Racecourse since Queen Anne founded it in 1711, and the current patron is the queen. Held over five days in the third week of June, Royal Ascot sees the queen and her family arrive in horse-drawn carriages to enjoy a day of racing.
It's blue velvet cloaks and white feather plumes at the ready for the Garter Ceremony, held on the first Monday of Royal Ascot. The Order of the Garter is an honor bestowed on those who have held public office and to whom the queen wants to give special recognition. There are only ever 24 Knights of the Garter, plus the royal members who include the queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, and Prince William. The group have lunch at Windsor Castle before processing through the streets to a service at St. George's Chapel.
Rather than traveling up and down to Scotland throughout the year, the queen schedules a week of activities in Edinburgh every Summer, known as Holyrood Week. There are engagements and a garden party, while the Thistle Ceremony (the Scottish Garter equivalent) is held in St. Giles Cathedral and the queen's Edinburgh residence the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
No matter what, the queen and Prince Philip holiday in Balmoral every year from August to mid-October. They attend services at Crathie Kirk church and welcome visits from other members of the family.
Ever seen pictures of the royal family laughing their heads off while sitting in deckchairs and bundled in blankets? That will be at the annual Braemar Gathering. The games are held near Balmoral on the first Saturday in September and feature tug o'war and caber tossing.
The queen holds an annual Ghillies' Ball (a ghillie is a gamekeeper) on the second Thursday of September for Balmoral staff and neighbors. There is a ceilidh with pipers, and the lucky ones could end up dancing a reel with her majesty.
A staple of Prince Harry's year are the WellChild Awards, which are held in the Fall at a big London hotel. As patron of the charity, he has attended every year for the past seven years.
A night of gentle entertainment at the Royal Variety Performance has been tradition for over a hundred years. Usually the queen and Prince Philip or Prince Charles and Camilla attend — sometimes joined by William and Kate — but last year it was a solo Prince Harry for the first time.
The Remembrance Service is always held on the second Sunday in November to commemorate those who have fought for their country. A two-minute silence is held at the Cenotaph war memorial, followed by poppy wreath laying by the queen and members of her family and a short church service. The Festival of Remembrance is held the night before, where members of the royal family watch performances from military bands and pop acts.
Early every December, the royal vaults are relieved of some of their finest tiaras, as the Windsor ladies deck themselves in diamonds for the annual diplomatic reception at Buckingham Palace. Around 1,500 people attend from 150 different countries, plus former prime minsters and religious leaders.
A far less formal occasion takes place at Buckingham Palace around the middle of December, when the queen hosts a big family lunch for her extended family.
The queen's annual Christmas message is recorded at Buckingham Palace, to be shown on Christmas Day at 3 p.m.
Her majesty usually heads to Sandringham in the third week of December to finalize the plans for Christmas, while other members of the family arrive on Christmas Eve.
The family attend church twice on Christmas Day — the first is a low-key private family service where the queen takes communion, and the second is a public service with glamorous Winter coats and hats. On Boxing Day, there is the annual shoot organized by Prince Philip and lunch on the grounds before the family start saying their goodbyes.