Easter Court: Why does the Queen go to Windsor and what does she do at Easter?

Each Spring, the Queen takes up residence at Windsor Castle for about a month, in a tradition known as Easter Court.

The monarch is particularly fond of Windsor Castle, in Berkshire, because she spent so much of her childhood there.

It’s also where she spends most of her weekends, having worked in Buckingham Palace through the week.

As Easter is not a set date, the timings of Easter Court vary, but are around March to April every year.

Yahoo UK looks at what the Queen does each year during Easter Court – and how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted 2020’s events.

Maundy Thursday

Each year, the Queen attends a service on Maundy Thursday, and has travelled to every cathedral in the country for the tradition over the years.

Maundy Thursday is the Christian celebration marking the day Jesus shared the final passover with his disciples before he was crucified on Good Friday.

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*Scanned low-res from print* Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh on arrival at Rochester Cathedral to attend the Maundy Service. It was the first time the Maundy service had been held in Rochester.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
The Queen and Prince Philip in Rochester, in 1961, the first time the Maundy service was held there. (Getty)

The Queen distributes Maundy money on this day, a tradition which dates back to the reign of Charles II in the 1660s.

According to the palace website: “The Queen travels to a different cathedral across the country to hand out special coins to men and women in recognition for their contribution to their community and church.”

She decided early in her reign to ensure the money went further than London, so has travelled frequently for the service.

In 2017, she went to Leicester Cathedral, the final cathedral she had to go to. Since then, it’s been held in Windsor.

The coins are legal tender but don’t enter circulation, because of their silver content.

According to the Royal Mint: “Today’s recipients of Royal Maundy are elderly men and women, chosen because of the Christian service they have given to the Church and the community.

“There are as many recipients as there are years in the sovereign’s age.”

WINDSOR, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Queen Elizabeth II poses with Yeomen of the Guard after attending the Royal Maundy Service at St George's Chapel on March 29, 2018 in Windsor, England.  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
The Queen with the Yeoman of the Guard in Windsor after the 2018 Maundy service. (Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Britaqin's Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh pose with Yeoman of the Guard following the Royal Maundy service at Leicester Cathedral on April 13, 2017 in Leicester. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Anthony Devlin        (Photo credit should read ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images)
The Queen and Prince Philip went to Leicester in 2017, the last cathedral they had to visit. (Getty Images)

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The coronavirus pandemic has meant the 2020 service won’t be held, so instead the Queen posted the money to the 188 recipients.

She gave 94 men and 94 women 94 coins each.

Dine and sleep events

One of the events the Queen hosts in Windsor over Easter Court is the dine and sleep nights.

Celebrities are invited to have dinner and stay the night in the castle, and previous guests have included Tim Peake, Daniel Craig, and Rachel Weisz. Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter have also attended them in the past.

YORK, ENGLAND - APRIL 05:  (Middle L-R) Archbishop of York John Sentamu, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Beatrice attends a Maundy Thursday Service at York Minster on April 5, 2012 in York, England. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Beatrice are visiting York today as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  (Photo by Arthur Edwards/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
In 2012, they went to York with Princess Beatrice, and Archbishop of York John Sentamu. (Getty Images)

There are also public figures invited, including people like the head of Eton College.

Bonham Carter recalled the event she attended in the Radio Times. She said: “It’s fun! Rachel Weisz was there with James Bond. I stayed in Prince Charles’s rooms.

“We had supper and the Queen and Prince Philip gave us a tour.”

The events usually appear in the Court Circular. While the Palace hasn’t issued a comment on them for 2020, as they are irregular events, it’s incredibly unlikely the Queen would be inviting anyone around as she shields to ensure she protects her health.

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Oscar nominated actress  Helena Bonham Carter (left), film maker Kenneth Branagh and actress Zoe Wanamaker (right) chat to the Queen at a reception for the Arts at Windsor Castle tonight (Wednesday). Photograph by Fiona Hanson/PA   (Photo by Fiona Hanson - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Helena Bonham Carter, Kenneth Branagh and Zoe Wanamaker speak to the Queen at Windsor Castle. (Getty Images)

Easter Sunday – her first day off of the year

The Queen receives her red box of government papers every day, no matter where in the world she is.

The only exceptions to this are Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.

So Easter brings one of the two days Her Majesty can have a bit of a break.

The Queen attends the Easter Sunday service at St George’s Chapel, the only public appearance she usually makes over the weekend.

The Prince of Wales with the Queen Mother, Princes William and Harry and Princess Margaret as they enter St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle to attend the traditional Easter Sunday service.   (Photo by Martin Keene - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales with the Queen Mother, Princes William and Harry and Princess Margaret on Easter Sunday. (Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 21: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, Mike Tindall, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the traditional Easter Sunday church service at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle on April 21, 2019 in Windsor, England. Easter Sunday this year coincides with Queen Elizabeth II's 93rd birthday. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
Prince Harry, Mike Tindall, Kate and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge attend the Easter Sunday church service at St George's Chapel in 2019. (Getty Images)

She often spends the weekend in private celebration with her family.

After Church, she is given a bouquet of flowers from local children who attended the service.

Royal watchers will know the chapel well as the venue for several royal weddings - including the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank.

Is there an Easter egg hunt?

The Queen doesn’t take part in an Easter Egg hunt, but there are some held at the palaces by the Royal Collections Trust (RCT).

They have in the past held egg hunt trails in the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace and at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

The 2020 event had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but RCT had planned an “annual treasure trail around the Royal Mews to win a chocolate prize, and enjoy making sparkling springtime arts and crafts as a family, creating jewel covered Easter egg decorations to take home”.

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WINDSOR, ENGLAND - APRIL 21: Queen Elizabeth II attends Easter Sunday service at St George's Chapel on April 21, 2019 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
The Queen attends Easter Sunday service at St George's Chapel in Windsor last year. (Getty)

A monarch’s work

The Queen doesn’t take the month off during Easter Court – she continues with much of her work.

She also continues with investitures ceremonies, so some people who are receiving honours will get them in Windsor Castle instead of Buckingham Palace.

Some who have been honoured there include Martin Clunes and Sir Lenny Henry.

WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 4: Martin Clunes (left) after receiving an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Sir Lenny Henry who received a Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II during an Investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on December 4, 2015 in Windsor, England. (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Both Martin Clunes received his OBE and Sir Lenny Henry his knighthood during an investiture at Windsor Castle. (Getty)

Family time

Usually Easter marks a private time for the Queen to celebrate with her family. In 2019, her granddaughter Princess Eugenie attended church with her on Maundy Thursday. Prince Philip attended when he was still carrying out royal duties.

Various family members will usually be with her over the course of the weekend. In 2019, Easter Sunday also coincided with her birthday, making it extra special.

But this year will be much quieter, because of coronavirus. The Queen won’t be able to see any of her grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, because everyone will be keeping their distance to protect themselves, and the monarch, from COVID-19.

While the Queen would usually go back to London about a month after she starts Easter Court, she is likely to stay much longer as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

She left London a week earlier than originally planned and her return date is not set. Prince Philip, her husband, was flown down from Sandringham to join her, and he is unlikely to return as quickly either.

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