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  • Royals reportedly didn’t think “it right” to go to bed before Queen Elizabeth on New Year’s Eve.
  • Thus, a Queen Elizabeth New Year’s Eve tradition was born.
  • Princess Diana reportedly felt the long evenings with the royal family on New Year’s Eve were “agony.”  
Queen Elizabeth, who had a New Year's Eve tradition where no one went to bed before her, according to her private secretary's memoirs, looks on wearing a green suit and hat
Queen Elizabeth II | Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

British royals are celebrating the holidays without Queen Elizabeth II. But before the monarch died in September 2022, the royal family had decades with her on the throne. And that meant a long-held New Year’s Eve tradition of sorts. Ahead, learn how the queen rang in the New Year. 

No one went to bed before Queen Elizabeth on New Year’s Eve: ‘Nobody felt it right’

Having the option to go to bed before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve wasn’t necessarily the way things worked with the queen. She reportedly stayed up until 12 a.m. with other royals right there with her. 

“Nobody felt it right to go to bed before the queen did,” Sir William Heseltine, former private secretary to the queen, wrote in his private memoirs as featured in the book, The Royals in Australia (via Independent). 

Traditionally, Queen Elizabeth invited relatives to spend Christmas and New Year’s at Sandringham House, her country home in Norfolk, England. 

Queen Elizabeth’s former private secretary said staying up on New Year’s Eve with the royal family was ‘agony’ for Princess Diana 

Princess Diana, Prince Philip, and Queen Elizabeth II, who members of the royal family didn't go to bed before on New Year's Eve, according to the queen's private secretary's memoirs
Princess Diana, Prince Philip, and Queen Elizabeth II | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Not everyone in the royal family particularly enjoyed the queen’s New Year’s Eve tradition of not being able to call it a night before she did. According to Heseltine, Princess Diana wasn’t a fan. 

“For Diana, the long royal evenings were agony,” he said in a “throwback interview” (via Express). 

“There’d be an hour or so in the sitting room of everyone sitting around making conversation,” he continued, “and nobody felt it right to go to bed before the queen did.” 

“Diana was driven to such extremes that she’d excuse herself and go to bed, which was thought to be rather bad form, going to bed before the queen,” he added.

On top of that, Diana didn’t reportedly like being in such tight quarters at Sandringham during the holidays.

Queen Elizabeth reportedly played a game of ‘lucky dip’ on New Year’s Eve

As for how the queen passed the time until midnight on New Year’s Eve, she reportedly liked to play games. Not Ibble-Dibble with fast talking and burnt corks as depicted in The Crown Season 4 but another unique game. 

According to royal expert Brian Hoey, the author of At Home with the Queen, the late monarch rang in the New Year with a game called “Lucky Dip.” 

Unlike Ibble-Dibble, it’s not supposed to be a drinking game. Rather, it involves a footman supplying a sawdust-filled tub complete with notes that have predictions on them for the new year. 

As for how the queen spent New Year’s Day, she traditionally started with a church service followed by horseback riding and a pheasant hunt. 

2022 marked the royal family’s return to Sandringham for Christmas and New Year’s since 2019. In 2020 and 2021, Queen Elizabeth stayed at Windsor Castle due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.