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Prince Philip, Charles and Harry head out for Christmas church service at Sandringham

Dozens of royals attended a church service at the Sandringham Estate today – a cornerstone of the family’s Christmas celebrations – however the Queen herself was notably absent as she continues to recover from a heavy cold.

Prince Charles, The Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry, the Earl of Wessex and Prince Andrew joined other royals as they made their way from Sandringham House to St Mary Magdalene Church where they enjoyed two Christmas services.  

As supreme Governor of the Church of England, the Queen’s faith is incredibly important to her – and this is the first time in nearly 30 years the 90-year-old Monarch has missed the service, which she and her husband Prince Philip, 95, have attended every year since 1988.

It is thought the Queen has not missed a Christmas Day service at either Sandringham or Windsor Castle – the previous location for the monarch’s festive break – in living memory. 

This comes amid a tumultuous week for the royals, which has seen the Queen and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh struck down with illness and the tragic news her granddaughter Zara Tindall had lost her unborn baby.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall led the way as the family arrived for a second, more public service at the church on the Sandringham Estate

Prince Harry delighted this lady – who is 93 and a half, and had been waiting for hours – as he stopped and took the time to wish her a Merry Christmas

Despite feeling under the weather, the Duke of Edinburgh was in high spirits as he left the church with Prince Harry and Sophie, Countess of Wessex


The couple, pictured at Grand National Horse Racing Festival at Aintree in April

It is thought Zara, 35, would have been about four-months pregnant, and the baby was expected to arrive in late Spring.

She and her husband Mike Tindall, 38, were said to have been ‘thrilled’ about the prospect of a baby brother or sister for their daughter Mia, nearly three.

It is understood the royal had a miscarriage but it is not known when.

A spokeswoman for the couple said: ‘Very sadly, Zara and Mike Tindall have lost their baby. At this difficult time, we ask that everyone respects their privacy.’

The spokeswoman would not give any details about the circumstances surrounding the loss of the couple’s baby but it is understood Zara is not in any medical danger.

The service at Sandringham is one of the highlights in the Royal calendar, in which members of the family spend quality time with one another. 

However this is the first time in some 28 years the Queen has not attended. 

A spokesman for Kensington Palace said today: ‘Her Majesty The Queen will not attend Church at Sandringham this morning. 

‘The Queen continues to recover from a heavy cold and will stay indoors to assist with her recovery. 

‘Her Majesty will participate in the Royal Family Christmas celebrations during the day.’ 

There was an outpouring of grief yesterday following news the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall and her 38-year-old husband lost their unborn baby, just weeks after revealing they were expecting their second child. 

The pair had been expected to spend Christmas at Sandringham but were not seen today. 

And in a break from tradition, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have this year chosen to spend the holidays with Kate’s parents, Michael and Carol Middleton, at their home in the village of Bucklebury, Berkshire, some 170 miles away. 

It came as a surprise to many that, in this special year the Queen reached her magnificent 90-year milestone and Prince Philip turned 95, two of their great-grandchildren Prince George, aged three, and Princess Charlotte, 18 months, will not be with them.

Prince Harry, meanwhile, is at the estate alone as his girlfriend, American actress Meghan Markle, 35, spends the festive season with her family in Toronto. 

Although Miss Markle was not invited the Queen is said to be ‘fully supportive’ of her grandson’s relationship with the actress.

Senior members of the family have joined the Queen at Sandringham and they will all be sitting down promptly at 1.15pm in the green-walled dining room hung with Spanish tapestries and rising after just over an hour to be in good time to watch her annual message on TV to the Commonwealth at 3pm. 

In her Christmas speech broadcast later on today, the Queen will praise the ‘inspirational’ Team GB athletes in her Christmas Day address, as well as the achievements of ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things’.  

In a break from tradition, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (pictured with Prince George and Princess Charlotte), hare spending the holidays with Kate’s parents, Michael and Carol Middleton, at their home in the village of Bucklebury, Berkshire

Prince William and Kate have opted to spend Christmas with her family in Bucklebury, where they were pictured arriving at church this morning

From left, Savannah Phillips, Autumn Phillips, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, Princess Eugenie and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Prince Harry was all smiles – despite his girlfriend, American actress Meghan Markle spending the holidays in Toronto

The Duke of Edinburgh – who has been suffering with a heavy cold all this week – took his coat off before entering the church

Prince Harry: The 32-year-old royal even stopped to say hello to a dog wearing a festive get-up including baubles and a jumper

Little Isla Phillips, four, holds hands with her grandmother Anne, Princess Royal, and her father, Peter Phillips

Prince Harry stood outside the church with his father, Prince Charles after attending the traditional Christmas morning church service near the Sandringham estate in rural Norfolk

Princess Eugenie (left) wore a red felt cocktail hat by Sarah Cant and a black clutch bag by new London handbag designer Stacy Chan, while Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall (right) wore a long blue royal blue coat with black accessories

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, James, Viscount Severn, Princess Eugenie and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex greeted crowds with 13-year-old Lady Louise Windsor who looked smart and elegant in her nude ballet pumps, grey marl coat and pale blue dress with matching silver clutch bag

Princess Beatrice (left) teamed her military-style coat, cinched in at the waist with a thick black belt, with vertiginous platform heels and a gingham headband complete with red rose. Her sister Princess Eugenie (right) opted for black court shoes, a grey marl coat, black leather gloves, a red felt cocktail hat by Sarah Cant and a black clutch bag by London designer Stacy Chan

Autumn Phillips – the wife of Peter Phillips, the oldest grandchild of Queen, with her daughter Savannah 

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales – who could be seen leaning on his umbrella outside the church

Prince Harry – looking smart in a paisley-print blue tie with matching shirt – smiled as his legions of fans greeted him

In her annual televised message to the nation, the monarch will speak on the theme of ‘inspiration’, citing the work of ‘unsung heroes’ across the nation.

The broadcast comes at the end of a momentous year in which the UK voted for Brexit, leading to David Cameron resigning, and the Queen celebrated her 90th birthday.

The Queen, wearing a blue dress by Angela Kelly, will also refer to the achievements of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which celebrated its 60th anniversary, and The Prince’s Trust, which turned 40 this year. 

Earlier in the week, royal aides were forced to cancel plans for the Queen and her husband to travel to Sandringham by train at the last minute after doctors deemed them too unwell to go.

Just over 24 hours later on Thursday and in a very unusual move, the royal couple took off from Buckingham Palace by helicopter. 

The Queen never normally travels to Sandringham by helicopter, preferring to go by train or car, and her helicopter is only usually used to carry members of the Royal family on public engagements. 

On Tuesday the Queen hosted her annual pre-Christmas lunch – a royal tradition which allows her to catch up with more distant relations who are not invited to join her at Sandringham on the 25th.

And it was also revealed earlier this week that the Monarch had relinquished more than two dozen of her most high profile patronages as she took another step back from royal duties.

As she carried a white floral arrangement, Sophie, Countess of Wessex looked fantastic in her red and black dress

Prince Harry meetinng the public – many of whom had travelled from around the country – after the service

The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke of Edinburgh and (back row), The Earl of Wessex, Lady Louise Windsor and the Countess of Wessex head to the church at Sandringham 

Prince Charles, The Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke of Edinburgh attend the early Christmas Day Service

Prince Harry, his cousin Princess Eugenie and Princess Anne’s daughter-in-law Autumn Phillips head to the service

Prince Philip, 95, walking back to Sandringham House: This is the first time in nearly 30 years his wife, the 90-year-old Monarch, has missed the service St Mary Magdalene Church

Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, wrapped up in a woollen scarf as he made his way to St Mary Magdalene Church

The Earl of Wessex, Lady Louise Windsor and the Countess of Wessex appeared to be embracing the festive spirit en route to the church 

Left, Princess Beatrice and Peter Phillips, the oldest son of Anne, Princess Royal and right, Anne, Princess Royal 

The Duke of Edinburgh, pictured just behind the Duchess of Cornwall, has been struck down with a heavy cold this week 

Princess Eugenie seemed to be in high spirits as she chatted animatedly to Princess Anne’s daughter-in-law Autumn Phillips and Prince Harry walked alongside them 

Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke of Edinburgh wrapped up warm against the cold wind as they led the way to the private mass 

Zara Tindall along with her husband Mike and daughter Mia, were thought to have been planning to spend Christmas Day at the Queen’s country house in Norfolk.

However they were not seen with other members of the Royal Family today.

Speaking to Country Life magazine in November, Zara spoke about how she was looking forward to spending Christmas with her family.

She said: ‘Having all the generations of my family together at Christmas is my favourite part of the season.

‘Christmas takes on a new magic when you have children’. 

She continued: ‘Mia will share this Christmas with lots of her cousins , some very close in age to her, and I think this year will be the one when she really starts to understand it all.’  


The Queen’s absence from the annual Christmas Day church service at Sandringham is one of the rare occasions she has missed an engagement.

She has been a steadfast presence during her reign, but there have been a small number of incidences when ill health has caused her to withdraw from her royal duties.

An official trip to Rome was cancelled in 2013 when the Queen was treated for the symptoms of gastroenteritis and stayed overnight in a private hospital.

In 2011 she had to miss a service of the Royal Victorian Order at Windsor Castle after suffering a nosebleed.

That was thought to be the first time she had missed a key public engagement in five years.

In 2006 she cancelled engagements after straining a back muscle and had official appointments scaled down after she underwent knee surgery in 2003.

Earlier this year an undisclosed minor ailment forced the Duke of Edinburgh to miss commemorations marking the anniversary of the First World War Battle of Jutland in Orkney, but he was present at the church service in Sandringham on Sunday.

He missed the Christmas service in 2011, after being admitted to hospital for a heart operation. 

Prince Philip merrily waved to the public as he made his way to his car after the church service

This lady in her festive blanket, Father Christmas earmuffs, tinsel and Union Jack flag, waited patiently for the royals – and it paid off when Prince Harry came over to greet her

Prince Harry and Princess Eugenie stopped to wish members of the public a Merry Christmas 

The Princess Royal stopped to talk to the Reverent outside St Mary Magdalene Church

Prince Andrew walks with his daughter Princess Beatrice, who wore a fetching gingham and red hairband

With his wife at home ill, the Duke of Edinburgh maintained tradition as he went to the service

Prince Philip walks with Sophie, Countess of Wessex who looked suitable festive in her red and extravagant black feathered hat

The service at Sandringham is one of the highlights in the Royal calendar, in which members of the family spend quality time with one another

Christmas with the Middleton’s: William and Kate, Prince George and Princess Charlotte and Kate’s brother and sister, Pippa and James with Carol and Michael Middleton instead attended a service in Berkshire


As they attended the Christmas service this morning, the Duchess of Cambridge and her children wrapped up warm in their festive coordinating outfits. 

The Duchess of Cambridge dressed Prince George in a £120 Pepa & Co wool coat. Similar garments were still available today in grey, blue and red, but in limited sizes. 

Kate often turns to the Spanish boutique designer company for pieces for her children.

George’s double-breasted wool coat features velvet detail on the buttons, collar and side pockets.

His warm coat was accompanied by his trademark look of socks pulled high, while Charlotte teamed festive red tights with a navy coat, and wore her hair tucked behind her ears.

Kate kept warm in a festive-coloured stole and coat which looked similar to one she wore in 2013 that was a hit with royal fashion watchers.

The Hobbs Unlimited Celeste wool coat has a belt at the waist and belted detail at the wrists.

In 2013, royal officials said the coat was burgundy in colour, but the fashion community favoured chestnut brown.

Meanwhile at Sandringham, Princess Eugenie wore a red felt cocktail hat by Sarah Cant and a black clutch bag by London handbag designer Stacy Chan. 

This is the second time William and Kate have spent time with the Middleton family over Christmas. 

In 2012, Kate was suffering with severe morning sickness while pregnant with Prince George so stayed with her parents. 

In another unusual move for the family, Kate and William chose to take their children along to church this morning – a move they would not usually make at Sandringham. 

Prince George and Princess Charlotte attended their first Christmas communion service at the 12th century St Mark’s Church in Englefield near the Middleton family home.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children were joined by newly-engaged Pippa Middleton and James Matthews for the service where the pair recently announced they will marry next year. 

Bells rang as the Royals arrived outside the church where some 100 smiling locals were seen entering for its 10.30am Sunday service.

Prince George walked along holding his father’s hand while and Princess Charlotte was carried in her mother’s arms.

Prince William could be seen talking animatedly to his son as they strolled through the church yard, as the youngster wrapped up warm against the cold wind in a smart grey woollen coat. 

The Duchess of Cambridge looked stylish and suitable festive as she recycled her maroon Hobbs coat previously worn in March 2013.


In her Christmas the Queen praised the ‘inspirational’ Team GB athletes as well as the achievements of ‘ordinary people doing extraordinary things’

 Here is the Queen’s Christmas message in full:

‘There was a time when British Olympic medal winners became household names because there were so few of them. But the 67 medals at this year’s Games in Rio and 147 at the Paralympics meant that the GB medallists’ reception at Buckingham Palace was a crowded and happy event.

‘Throughout the Commonwealth there were equally joyful celebrations. Grenada, the Bahamas, Jamaica and New Zealand won more medals per head of population than any other countries.

‘Many of this year’s winners spoke of being inspired by athletes of previous generations. Inspiration fed their aspiration; and having discovered abilities they scarcely knew they had, these athletes are now inspiring others.

‘A few months ago, I saw inspiration of a different kind when I opened the new Cambridge base of the East Anglian Air Ambulance, where Prince William works as a helicopter pilot. It was not hard to be moved by the dedication of the highly skilled doctors, paramedics and crew, who are called out on average five times a day.

‘But to be inspirational you don’t have to save lives or win medals. I often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special.

‘They are an inspiration to those who know them, and their lives frequently embody a truth expressed by Mother Teresa, from this year Saint Teresa of Calcutta. She once said: ‘Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love’.

‘This has been the experience of two remarkable organisations, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and The Prince’s Trust, which are 60 and 40 years old this year. These started as small initiatives but have grown beyond any expectations, and continue to transform young people’s lives.

‘To mark my 90th birthday, volunteers and supporters of the six hundred charities of which I have been patron came to a lunch in The Mall. Many of these organisations are modest in size but inspire me with the work they do.

‘From giving friendship and support to our veterans, the elderly or the bereaved; to championing music and dance; providing animal welfare; or protecting our fields and forests, their selfless devotion and generosity of spirit is an example to us all.

‘When people face a challenge they sometimes talk about taking a deep breath to find courage or strength. In fact, the word ‘inspire’ literally means ‘to breathe in’.

‘But even with the inspiration of others, it’s understandable that we sometimes think the world’s problems are so big that we can do little to help. On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.

‘At Christmas, our attention is drawn to the birth of a baby some two thousand years ago. It was the humblest of beginnings, and his parents, Joseph and Mary, did not think they were important.

‘Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong.

‘And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.

‘The message of Christmas reminds us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received, and that love begins small but always grows.

‘I wish you all a very happy Christmas.’

  • The message was transmitted on television and radio at 3pm on Christmas Day and was produced this year by ITN.It will be available on the Royal Channel on YouTube and will also be shown in Commonwealth countries.

Wellwishers waited excitedly with their Union Jack flags to greet members of the royal family – and this lady was in luck later in the day when Prince Harry stopped to say hello

Excited members of the public have gathered near St Mary Magdalene Church in Norfolk in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the royals


Pippa Middleton, James Matthews and Michael Middleton: The Duchess of Cambridge’s sister is set to walk down the aisle at the same church in May next year 

Pippa Middleton today attended a Christmas service at the church where she will next year marry her multi-millionaire fiance. 

The Duchess of Cambridge’s younger sister and fiance James Matthews joined Kate and William, her parents Michael and Carole Middleton, her brother James and niece and nephew, Prince George and Princess Charlotte. 

They attended the service at St Mark’s Church in Englefield, near the Middleton’s £4.7million mansion in Berkshire.

Ahead of Pippa’s impending nuptials, the Cambridges are spending Christmas with Kate’s family at the Middleton home near Bucklebury instead of joining other royals at the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk. 

Friends said the Middleton family are pulling out all the stops to mark the occasion as it will be Pippa’s last Christmas as a single woman.

She will marry financier James Matthews on May 20 and the couple hope to start their own family soon afterwards.

Prince George, Pippa’s nephew, is tipped to be a page boy and her niece Princess Charlotte, who will have just turned two, a flower girl.

The Duchess of Cambridge’s little sister shot to public attention when she wore a bottom-hugging bridesmaid’s dress at the royal wedding in 2011.

But she is said to have wanted a smaller, more intimate ‘family’ wedding when she weds wealthy hedge fund trader James Matthews next year.

The couple are believed to be setting a marquee up in the garden of Michael and Carole Middleton’s mansion with upmarket Portaloos brought in for the occasion.

Trendy designer Giles Deacon is rumoured to be making Pippa’s dress after he was spotted carrying garment bags into the £17 million house with his and hers bathrooms she and James share in London.

Chelsea florist Lavender Green is arranging the flowers – likely to include spring blooms like daffodils.

Kate’s sister Pippa has previously written about ‘magical’ family Christmases and how their father dons fancy dress costumes including, once, that of an inflatable sumo wrestler. 

Kate, 34, is very close to her family and has always made clear that they will play a significant role both in her life and those of her children. 

This will be the second time Kate and William have joined the Middletons for Christmas Day since they married in 2011 and the first since their children were born.

The last time the couple stayed away from the traditional royal gathering was in December 2012, shortly after Kate was discharged from hospital having been treated for severe morning sickness when she was pregnant with George.

In 2014, William and Kate were believed to have lunched with the Middletons before attending the Christmas Day church service with the royals.

The Middleton mansion has always been a haven for William and Kate, and they spent a number of weeks there within days of George, now three, being born. 

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