The Queen shows a brave face at Sandringham this Christmas as her husband
(pictured this month) continues to recover in hospital. Pictures: PA

In the absence of his father, Prince Charles leads the walk to St Mary Magdalene Church.
Picture: Reuters

It was the largest Royal Christmas for decades as a crowd of 3,000 — three times the size of last year (partly due to better weather and undoubtedly inspired by their latest addition, the Duchess of Cambridge) — gathered at Sandringham this year to greet the Royal Family.  All of the family was expected to be there, too — Her Majesty, all her children, grandchildren, great-grandchild, plus the 2 latest additions – Kate and Mike Tindall.  Sadly, on 23 December, the head of the family, the Duke of Edinburgh, had to be rushed to a hospital for an emergency heart stenting after experiencing chest pains. He missed Christmas this year.  And for the first time in 55 years, the Queen spent Christmas apart from her husband. The Duke remained in “high spirits,” “anxious to leave”, and insisted that the show must go on.

In an unexpected move, the whole family attended an earlier service on Christmas morning (thought to be fore communion)  before heading back, changing clothes, and returning for the formal Christmas service.  In the absence of his father, Prince Charles & Camilla led the walk to St Mary Magdalene Church, followed by William, Kate and Harry.

It’s the Duchess of Cambridge’s first Christmas at Sandringham — and she was a hit!
Pictures: Alan Davidson, Reuters

A crowd of 3,000 — 3 times the size of last year — gathered to see William & Kate
Picture: Alan Davidson

The royal newlyweds Zara & Mike Tindall, and William & Kate (dressed down for an earlier service that morning)
Pictures: Getty Images, Ken Goff

After the service, the family received (an unusually large number of) flowers, cards, gifts and well wishes from the crowd.  A lot of them, of course, are there to see Kate for the first time. Veteran royal-watcher Mary Relph, said: “I have never seen queues like this on Christmas Day before, I have never seen this amount of people here since Diana was alive. People obviously came to see Kate Middleton. And she was fantastic.“  Journalist Alison Croose agreed: “I have not seen crowds like this since back into the Diana days. It reminded me of the Diana years – when Diana introduced Prince William to the crowds when he was about seven or eight. It was touching. Diana used to have her hand on his back. Now you see William with his hand on Kate’s back. It was really nice.”

Prince Harry, the most eligible royal bachelor, brought cheers when he kissed a girl on the cheek.  When her friend asked for a peck too he replied with a grin: “I can’t give you a kiss, I just kissed her.”

After Christmas lunch, all of the Duke’s grandchildren — William, Harry, Beatrice, Eugenie, Peter and Zara — drove to Papworth Hospital to visit him.  Her Majesty and their children — Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward — had seen him the day before.  And then it’s back to Sandringham to continue with the holiday plans, including the traditional Boxing Day shoot.  On with the show without a lot of fuss — just as the Duke would have wanted it.

The Queen’s Christmas message this year focused on the binding love of family:


Update: The Duke of Edinburgh was released from hospital on 27 December.  He spent 4 nights in Papworth Hospital.

Other Videos:


Picture Sets: