Seeing the Queen on Christmas Morning at Sandringham

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Well, friends, we went to see the queen on Christmas morning at Sandringham! There was so much excitement built up, we weren’t sure if it would be as big of a deal as we had hoped or imagined. So Christmas morning, after we opened our stockings, we packed up a picnic brunch, and hopped into the car for the drive. It was a very grey winter morning, but it was still beautiful, and we made the hour or so of driving pass quickly as we sang every Christmas carol we knew. Once we arrived in Sandringham, we just parked and followed the crowds of people to the gate of St. Mary Magdelene Church. Amelia was practically sprinting.

It was all very orderly, and the  police officers working the event were very cheerful and friendly. Amelia announced (very loudly) to the one below, “When I grow up, I am going to try super-hard to be very good, because I never want to go to jail.”  She offered some other crowd-pleasing remarks as we all stood and waited by the drive to see the car come by with the queen inside.
Amelia waited eagerly with her little posy.

It was an awful lot of buildup to just see a car drive by! When it finally passed, I just caught a glimpse of the driver and Princess Eugenie. If you look closely at the edge of the photo, I believe you can see the brim of Queen Elizabeth’s turquoise hat.

Once the royal family had entered the church, everyone dispersed to go get a hot drink or take a walk on the beautiful grounds of the Sandringham Estate. Jeff went and picked up our picnic basket, so we could warm up with some hot cocoa and a bite to eat.

Our two food traditions for Christmas are panettone (even though we are gluten-free through the rest of the year!) and hot chocolate made from cacao sent to us from my parents in the Philippines. I make ours with coconut milk, cinnamon and ginger. Also in our picnic on Christmas morning: garam masala-spiced pecans and apple, leek and sage sausages.

Having a breakfast picnic out in the cold on Christmas morning was actually a lot of fun! We may have to make it a tradition.

Oh, and this little girl was so excited to meet the queen and give her flowers. She wore pearls that morning because she had learned that Queen Elizabeth also likes to wear a string of pearls.

We barely had time to finish our breakfast before it was time to go back, and for the children to line up to give flowers to Her Majesty. Look at all of these excited children! There were about 70 there, waiting their turns. Amelia was almost at the end.

At this point, the crowds were so thick that I could hardly see a thing!

I didn’t see the queen or any children talking to her. But I could see children coming back after their big moment with Her Majesty. Look at these adorable sisters!

When I figured it was about Amelia’s turn, I just raised my camera over my head, and did my best to aim and shoot in the general direction of the royal family. (So did everyone else, by the way!)

There she is, in blue!

And it turns out that I did manage to catch this moment. I didn’t know it until I got home.

OK people, things are about to get real here.  When I met Amelia down the drive after her moment with the queen, I was so excited to hear what she had said to her. And then after she told me, I wanted to die.  So, there’s a little context for what Amelia decided to say, something that was not at all on our radars this week. There was a moment at the Olympics opening ceremonies, when the camera panned to the queen, and she was just looking at her fingernails for several long seconds, without ever looking up. We said, “Oh, look Amelia– there’s the queen!” And then I exclaimed, “Oh, no! She’s just picking her fingernails!” I was embarrassed for her sake, and then of course there was some fallout later on in the media for that moment, as well. That was several months ago, and we have talked about the queen so many times, looked at pictures, etc. I didn’t know that moment had made an impression of any kind on Amelia.
So on Christmas morning, when Amelia had her moment with the Queen of England, she said, “I’ve been wanting to meet you for ages. But my mama and papa said you’re just picking your nails.” To which her majesty replied, “Oh, no!” And that was it. I was of course completely surprised that this was what my charming child had chosen to say at that special moment, and horrified. The fact that we had not witnessed any part of this interaction made it harder, since we had no idea how anyone had responded. Later, when we saw the photo of Amelia talking with her, I was chagrined to realize just how many important people were listening– and I must add here that my daughter always speaks loudly and clearly, so that everyone within ten feet can enjoy what she has to say!

It was a rather somber drive home. Jeff spoke soberly to Amelia about choosing things to say to people that make them feel good about themselves, rather than bad. There was a line, however, that made me choke back laughter and realize how surreal the experience was. Jeff said,

 “Amelia, that’s just not the way we talk to people, and especially not toThe Queen.”
Poor Amelia. She is such a nice kid, a true sweetheart, and the situation was just so high-pressure. It took a while for me to process the experience, and sharing it with friends and family via Facebook really helped us to see the humor in the situation and to process. On the one hand, she’s just a six year old kid, and children say and do all sorts of crazy things. On the other hand, Amelia is super self-aware, socially savvy, and the tendency to bring up faults  and mistakes (and tattling on her friends to their parents) is something we’ve been working with her on a whole lot lately. This case didn’t seem 100% innocent to me, as much as I would have liked to believe it! No one expects their kids to be perfect, but we certainly hope for a little more grace than this when one of them gets to speak to The Queen of England! I didn’t want this to ruin the experience for Amelia, and I’m hoping it can be a memorable learning experience and a great story that we can all enjoy later.
A few hours after we got home, I found this press photo!

Photo Credit: Leon Neal

I love the look on Queen Elizabeth’s face, and I can see that Princess Beatrice is really laughing. That really helped!  This picture is all over the web, in news articles from around the world. I cannot wait to get it framed as a very special memory (and eventually a very laughable story!)

Last night, a few people told me that they saw Amelia on the Today Show in the US!! I found the video, and it was really hilarious because in it, you can see Amelia walking away from the encounter with a very uncomfortable look on her face, and then the queen is visibly laughing! Here’s the clip:

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Oh, what a relief to see that my child’s impertinence was met with such good humor!
We never expected that going to see the queen and her family on Christmas morning would be such a HUGE experience for our family! We know we will remember this for the rest of our lives and we will often tell the story about when Amelia met the Queen of England and what she dared to say. And we will appreciate this wonderful lady’s grace and good humor. Merry Christmas, Your Majesty!

Photo Credit: Christ Jackson/ Getty Images

Have you ever had the chance to speak to someone really important? What did you say?

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63 Responses to Seeing the Queen on Christmas Morning at Sandringham

  1. Anonymous December 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Oh my goodness! What a post! That is the best story that I have heard in a while 🙂 Your daughter was lovely, and I am sure that the Queen of England understood that she was speaking with a child. Nonetheless, it was an incredible expat accomplishment! – Rose London

    • Ariana Mullins December 27, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

      Hi Rose– so glad you enjoyed this crazy story! I agree with you, that the queen must be used to all sorts of things coming out of childrens’ mouths. She was clearly amused, which is all I can really hope for in this situation!

  2. Kim Carberry December 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Wow!! A lovely post!! You must be so proud of your daughter….I’m sure the Queen didn’t take it to heart…What a lovely Christmas memory for you’s to talk about in years to come…Fab pics too 🙂

    • Ariana Mullins December 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

      Hi Kim! Thank you! I am proud of the strong little person that my daughter is, and I’m sure this story will be one that we will use to remember that she’s always been that way!

  3. Michelle Twin Mum December 27, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    What a fabulous and memorable day for you all! Happy new year, Mich x

    • Ariana Mullins December 27, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

      Thank you Michelle! Happy New Year to you, too!

  4. Julia Kelly December 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    its the “Emperor’s New Clothes´s ” in real life!

  5. Stephanie Z December 27, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    I have read your blog for a few years now, And I am de-lurking to say that I just love your child!! This is priceless!!! You will treasure this memory always.

    • Ariana Mullins December 27, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

      Aw, thanks for coming out of the shadows to tell me something so wonderful, Stephanie. So nice to “meet” you here!

  6. Jenny December 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    What a wonderful memory for you all! Happy Christmas. xx

    • Ariana Mullins December 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      Thank you Jenny– super memorable, to say the least! Enjoy that sunshine over there for me!

  7. Jenny December 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    That gave me quite a chuckle. Picking her nails!

    • Ariana Mullins December 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

      Glad we could make you laugh, it will be funnier to me in a week or two!

  8. Valerie {all mussed up} December 27, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Oh my goodness…this is just the best! 🙂

    (and I make cocoa with coconut milk too…isn’t it just unctuously delicious?? mmm mmm.)

    • Ariana Mullins December 27, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

      Yes, coconut milk cocoa is SO wonderful! I like mine spicy, too.

  9. Diane December 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm #

    As a friend of Gretchen’s, I have had the pleasure of “meeting” Amelia, via your posts. This was a gem and so, so enjoyable.

    • Ariana Mullins December 28, 2012 at 10:25 am #

      Hi Diane, so glad you have enjoyed Amelia’s antics. She is quite a kid, and being able to share this story with so many people has been really wonderful!

  10. [email protected] December 27, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    I’ve never met anyone famous, but I sure do want to meet Amelia!!!!!

  11. One Day At A Time December 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    What an uncomfortably wonderful story that you’ll be telling for years and years to come. The pictures are lovely!!

    • Ariana Mullins December 28, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      Yes, I think “uncomfortably wonderful” is just right for describing this story! Thank you for reading!

  12. Jonalyn Fincher December 27, 2012 at 8:50 pm #


    I distinctly recall being quite similar to Amelia in wanting to point out faults but ALWAYS in the name of justice and honesty. 😉 That Amelia had an uncomfortable look on her face speaks volumes to me. My gloss on the comment is that Amelia wanted the queen to know about her world, the world where her family noticed her picking her fingernails. So she told what she knew (in the name of transparency). But I also think Amelia wanted to be honest (despite the sad moment of fingernail picking) with her zeal. SHE STILL wanted to meet her.

    I honestly love her comment, it shows so much of her desire to be herself, EVEN under so much pressure and intensity.

    • Ariana Mullins December 28, 2012 at 10:30 am #

      I love your take on it, Jonalyn! I still haven’t quite been able to formulate WHY she said what she did, but maybe it was just intense honesty/ confession about how we feel about her. Someone else also suggested that she was tattling on US to the queen about mentioning the nail-picking. That is also very feasible!

  13. Kristen December 27, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    What a great story! Hahaha! From the mouth of babes! Love it!

  14. Melissa N. Page December 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Your Amelia is absolutely precious, I mean look at those dimples! What a great story and memory you will all have. And as for meeting someone famous, I think meeing Amelia would be much more interesting! 🙂

    • Ariana Mullins January 1, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

      Melissa, I love that you said you’d rather meet Amelia! Warms this mama’s heart, for sure!

  15. TheBoyandMe December 27, 2012 at 11:21 pm #

    Oh that’s just brilliant, what a little poppet and I bet you’re relieved to see her cheekiness met with such good humour. WHen I was about 7 or 8 Princess Diana came to my hometown to re-open the local theatre. I gave her a bunch of flowers and just stood there staring into her deep blue eyes, I was too gobsmacked to say anything. Your daughter will remember meeting the Queen forever.

    Popping over from Cooombe Mill’s bloghop.

    • Ariana Mullins January 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

      Oh, that’s SO CUTE! I love that story. I’ve never known my little one to be tongue-tied. I wonder what it must be like to be her!

  16. Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    As the mom of a little one myself, (and two grown kids as well) I understand how the things that can come out of their mouths can sometimes make a parent pretty uncomfortable…but this is just precious! What a thrilling experience for your adorable little girl to meet Her Majesty. These photos are gorgeous! I’m sure this was very exciting for you all, and something Amelia will remember forever. What a great way to spend Christmas morning!

    • Ariana Mullins January 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      Thank you, Julie! We had no idea how “big” this moment would become for all of us! I am happy for Amelia that she has had this moment of mild fame. 🙂

  17. Kristin December 28, 2012 at 1:46 am #

    Oh my word, this is a story for the generations!

  18. Lindsey Matthews December 28, 2012 at 2:17 am #

    The more you blog about your daughter, the more adorable she sounds! 🙂

  19. Coombe Mill December 28, 2012 at 3:08 am #

    Just the most priceless post, I am laughing so much reading it. I’m sure it is the comment among all the general well wishes that the Royal family will remember and laugh over too.

    • Ariana Mullins January 10, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

      I sure hope they are laughing! My daughter told me that she would really like to meet the queen again someday, and say something different. Maybe she will!

  20. [email protected] December 28, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    Oh my, I just love her! My sweet Katie has had some very quotable moments, but not in front of the Queen of England!

  21. Emma Martin December 28, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    Oh brilliant! What a great memory to treasure and how great you found the press photo afterwards.

    Popping over from Coombe Mills blog hop.

  22. Hazel December 28, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    I’ve just had to explain the whole story to my children because the picture of the Queen’s face and then the video of her shaking with laughter both made me laugh out loud!
    I think the Queen has heard worse things- it would take more than that to upset her!

    My husbands claim to the Queen’s fame is that he nearly tripped her over once. His defence was that he is quite tall and she is rather short and he didn’t see her, but she didn’t look nearly as amused as she did after meeting Amelia!

  23. Bright Side of Life December 28, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    Awesome story and your daughter is absolutely adorable. Love the picture of her and the Queen with her granddaughters.

  24. Jasanna Czellar December 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    Oh, children! I’m glad you saw the humor in it. They sure did!! I love that you found photos later of the experience too. 🙂 How awesome!

  25. Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Thanks for the pretty pictures and sharing with us your life through this blog entry! It must have been so exciting for your little girl to see the Queen!
    The story at the end was oh so funny! I chuckled out loud it was so cute!
    I will never forget this either! Blessings. Karen H.

  26. Chaffin Family Orchards December 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    Great Story!

  27. Marilyn December 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    What a great story! Not least because I think we always imagine what it will be like to meet someone famous….but rarely does it ever turn out the way we may have expected. Thanks for sharing what is sure to be a story shared for a lifetime. Happy Christmas!

  28. Lauren December 28, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    This brought a big smile to my face! Thank you for sharing this story!

  29. Christa aka The BabbyMama December 29, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Oh, that is too adorable!

  30. Anonymous December 30, 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    I teach our girls to always speak from their hearts and they’ll never be wrong. Funny how little Amelia validated that for me (thank you sweetie!). Speaking the truth may not always be well received but you’ll find out who your friends are faster 😉 Beautiful post, Happy 2013!! -JeanneR

  31. Elie December 31, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    If I ever get the chance to meet the Queen of England, now I know what I will say. I will ask her if she remembers the little girl who told her she was picking her nails!

  32. Anonymous December 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

    [email protected]

    I get Grandpa Roberts weekly letter to Ed and Luanne, and followed link to you.
    I take care of my 6 year old grand-daughter and know the never ending surprises we get.

    Loved the story Roger

  33. Anonymous January 1, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    What an absolutely wonderful story Ariana! Pierre and I laughed and laughed until I had tears! The expression on Her Majesty’s face is absolutely priceless! And to know that Amelia put it there…! You know, it is not often that we see the Queen smile, much less laugh, so this is quite an accomplishment! Not only will *you* remember this (and us too!), but I suspect that Amelia’s impertinence may have been mentioned at the Royals’ Christmas Lunch. When people live surrounded by dull deference, a little blast of fresh air like this is quite noteworthy, so kudos to Amelia for being so outstanding!!

    In the past week or two, I’ve been reading a delightful little book for my book club in which Her Majesty is the central character. I highly recommend it to you; it is very amusing in its own right, but I think it mades Amelia’s meeting all the more funny (at least, I found it to be so). It’s called “An Uncommon Reader”.

    Bravo to Amelia for being such an extraordinary little girl; it is quite something to have the courage to speak as she does. And to have actually made the Queen laugh — well, that is quite an accomplishment!
    — Monika

  34. Blissful Mama January 2, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Thats a fabulous story!

  35. Caterina B January 5, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

    What a story! I loved it. And….I remember very well being slightly shocked seeing the Queen not paying attention to the Ceremony and “picking her nails.” I couldn’t believe my eyes!
    This is a story you will retell and retell for many years. We have certain favorite ones about our 3 kids and they actually love hearing them over and over even though they are adults now. Sob.

  36. Chasing the Donkey January 14, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

    Ohh no! But What a story – at least she stood out.
    BTW – Loved to posie.

  37. Hausfrau January 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    I just can’t believe this–what an amazing memory to have! The innocence and forthrightness of a child–how I love the Queen’s response to it!

  38. ben linus February 12, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Awesome story and your daughter is absolutely adorable. Love the picture of her and the Queen with her granddaughters. Love to see this. All the pictures are lovely.
    Ben Linus,
    Go Here

  39. Leon Neal February 25, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    Rather randomly, I’ve just found this blog after spotting my picture. For some reason, it’s credited as Matt Dunham but it’s mine, as far as I can see! Anyway, drop me a line through and I’ll see if I can sort you out… 🙂

  40. Jennifer S. December 13, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    Hi Ariana, I am planning to go to Sandringham to see the Queen this year. Any advice on when should I arrive? Thank you! 🙂

    Btw, love the photo of your daughter standing in line waiting for the Queen. Adorable!


  41. Anu Ann Randmaa December 23, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    What a special story of your daughter and your family. I adore the royal family and especially think that the Queen becomes lovelier every year that passes. Such a treat to peek into your lives and read your recipes! Much thanks from Unionville, Ontario Canada and this senior citizen !

  42. Janie December 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Oh my…what an adorable post. Children are soo amazing! I love the Queens reaction to her (and her granddaughters) Wonderful experience to remember.

  43. Col March 29, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Amelia’s visit with the Queen. Is complete innocence. She is complete innocence as we all are. How lovely and refreshing. She is lovely!


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