Queen Elizabeth's Credit Crunch Christmas

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II speaks with Slovenia's President Danilo Turk before a dinner at Brdo Castle outside Ljubljana Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Srdjan Zivulovic, POOL)[
AP Photo/Srdjan Zivulovic, POOL
This story was filed by CBSNews.com's London-based entertainment contributor Neil Sean.
It's been a long, cold year for Queen Elizabeth II.

The British monarch has had to go cap-in-hand to the government she technically heads, asking Prime Minister Gordon Brown for extra cash to keep the royal palaces from crumbling, and public backlash over the royal family's tax-payer-funded payroll and scandals involving questionable associations and real estate payments have added to her headache.

So, you might assume the Queen is looking forward to a bit of luxuriant rest and relaxation over the holidays - a time to kick back, enjoy good food and drink, and perhaps relish a nice gift or two. Think again.

The Queen, noting the mood of her many out-of-work subjects as Britain muddles through global economic malaise, has informed members of her family that this year is to be a "Credit Crunch Christmas".

Typically, the family members gather at Sandringham Estate, the Queen's country manor in Norfolk, England, a few days before Christmas.

This year, the Queen is hoping to see even more of them show up - the more royals at the table, the fewer there will be out globe-trotting to warm holiday destinations, incurring huge security costs at the tax-payers' expense.

The Royals are not generally prone to extravagant Christmas gift-giving amongst themselves - often opting for "practical" items like bath soaps or a fancy face cloth for the Queen. Stocking contents have been known to include the traditional gift of fresh fruit.

For "Credit Crunch Christmas," however, Her Majesty has made it known that she requires no gifts at all, and either does her husband, Prince Philip. Any gifts that her family may have had in mind, she asks they be donated to local charities and hospitals.

Insiders tell me that the economic show of solidarity has also been suggested to all members of the royal household staff.

Royal staffers, "are not expecting the usual notice of parties and drinks gatherings that is normally sent around in the style of a formal invite this year, one source tells me. "They fully understand the predicament the royal family is in. Everyone is tightening their belts this year and the Queen and her family are no different."

The desire to show empathy with broke Britons has even extended to the Queen's wardrobe this year. She's been seen wearing more and more of her old garments, and has instructed many family members to "cut back and reuse what we have".

The royals are apparently even feeling the chill, literally, in their palaces - often vast old stone buildings which aren't the warmest places to begin with.

According to my source, the Queen believes that if one is feeling the cold, "Then go put a wool jumper on, rather than turning up the heat."
By Neil Sean