Yes, Kate Middleton (and Now Prince George!) Hunt: Inside the Royals' Love Affair with the Sport
Sandringham estate "lends itself to shooting. It's a paradise for it," former royal bodyguard Ken Wharfe told PEOPLE
Kate Middleton loves the life of royal country wife and mother — and that includes an enthusiasm for hunting.
And now, the royal mom is sharing that tradition with her son, Prince George. On Friday, Kate reportedly took her 5-year-old son on his first grouse-hunting expedition during a visit with Queen Elizabeth at her summer retreat, Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
Ever since Kate and Prince William set up their country home in the rural county of Norfolk in 2014, the couple has been hosting parties at the magnificent Anmer Hall and taking part in the annual shoots around Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham estate.
“The estate lends itself to shooting. It’s a paradise for it,” Ken Wharfe, a former royal bodyguard who looked after Princess Diana and William and Prince Harry when they were boys, previously told PEOPLE.
“Everything is in place for it and there is privacy and security,” added Wharfe of the flatlands of Norfolk, which provide the perfect environment for shooting on still, crisp winter days. “It is one of the great shooting estates with the best managers and game keepers.”
Like most of the royal women, including Sophie, Countess of Wessex who has been photographed on a shoot during Christmas, Kate pairs up with a guest — someone who is not her husband — for the competitive shoots. The women will either take part in the shooting of partridges and pheasants or help with tallying their partner’s haul.
Dressed in waxed Barbour jackets and armed with the finest shotguns — one of William’s guns is a rifle — members of the hunting parties carry picnic lunches to tide them over.
Traditionally included in the meal: fried slices of leftover royal Christmas pudding, which, former chef Darren McGrady told PEOPLE, are wrapped “in wax paper. Anyone going out hunting or shooting or stalking would have two fingers.”
The party might dine in a wood cabin that lies at the heart of the estate, with royal servants warming it up with a fire ahead of their arrival.
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Today, many of William’s closest friends, including William van Cutsem, James Meade and Tom van Straubenzee, are crack shots themselves. They, along with others confidantes such as longtime Kate pal Sophie Carter and William chum Charlie Savoury, enjoy long days of shooting pheasant followed by lazy dinner parties.
Back when William’s childhood pals the van Cutsems were the tenants of Anmer Hall, he and Harry were regular visitors, and they would also pop over when they were staying with their granny, Queen Elizabeth, in the main Sandringham House.
Even before he moved into Anmer in 2014, William always held winter shooting parties on the estate, basing himself at Wood Farm, during his college years and afterward. And it is thought that the Middletons have joined the traditional shoots alongside the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth.
One of the earliest pictures of Kate with William was in December 2002 at Sandringham. They were both students at St. Andrews and she was spotted standing next to William, his faithful Labrador, Widgeon, at their feet.
William and Kate and the extended Windsor clan are not the only royal family to enjoy the sport. Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip has been known to bag buck deer on hunting trips. Queen Margrethe of Denmark has also been pictured with a hunting haul of deer, which were laid out on the lawn of the Fredensborg Palace.