Queen, Prince Philip alter usual plans, will spend Christmas 'quietly' at Windsor Castle
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry joined the royal family for Christmas church service. This is the first time a royal fiancée will spend the holiday at Sandringham before officially marrying into the family.
Christmas will be a bit lonelier this year for the British royal family, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic: Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip will be together at Windsor Castle but without all their relatives, for the first time in decades.
“Having considered all the appropriate advice, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor," Buckingham Palace said Tuesday in a statement.
Traditionally, the royals head to Norfolk about 100 miles northeast of London to spend Christmas and New Year's at the queen's sprawling private estate, Sandringham.
Many of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren join them there, following customs dating back generations: They exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, troop to church services on Christmas morning, sit down for a festive lunch and then settle in to listen to the annual Queen's Speech broadcast.
Hundreds of people typically gather near the historic little church at Sandringham, St. Mary Magdalene, on Christmas Day to greet the royals as walk down the path from the house for the morning service. The queen is usually driven.
But that's all off. Instead, the queen, 94, and her husband, 99, who have been married 73 years, will spend Christmas in the "bubble" set up in the spring to protect the nonagenarian queen from COVID-19 at the castle west of London.
They may see some members of their family briefly in accordance with government guidelines, but Christmas celebrations will likely involve just the couple.
Various senior members of the family, such as Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his wife, Duchess Camilla of Cornwall, and his elder son, Prince William, 38, and his wife, Duchess Kate of Cambridge, 38, and their three children, are expected to spend Christmas at their own estates.
The Cambridges could stay at their country retreat, Anmer Hall, at Sandringham, or with Kate's Middleton family in Berkshire.
Charles, 72, (who had COVID-19 and recovered earlier this year) and Camilla, 73, are expected to stay at his estate, Highgrove House, in Gloucestershire, and also spend some time with her family.
Charles' younger son, Prince Harry, 36, and his wife, Duchess Meghan of Sussex, 39, and their baby Archie, 1, are living in Santa Barbara County, California, and were not expected back in the U.K. for Christmas anyway.
It's the first time the queen and Philip are spending Christmas without any of their four children with them since 1949, when the couple went to Malta (he was then in the Navy) and left 1-year-old Charles at 真人百家家乐官网网站home.
At the moment, only their second son, Prince Andrew, 60, lives close by in Windsor, at Royal Lodge on the castle estate.
The queen has been isolating at the castle since the spring, but also went to Balmoral, her castle in Scotland, for her usual late summer vacation (although this year's was cut in half).
Prince Philip, who retired in 2017, has been living mostly at a farm house on the Sandringham estate. But the couple have been together in the "bubble" at the three estates at various times over the last eight months.
Most of the queen's engagements were canceled during the pandemic and she has instead done virtual engagements via video conference calls. Her most recent in-person engagement was at a defense facility in Porton Down, England, in October.
The decision to alter royal Christmas plans comes as new government pandemic guidelines went into effect, with some areas of the country under more stringent rules than others about mixing with family and friends.
In the area covering Windsor, the "rule of six" applies – up to six people from different households are able to meet outdoors. That would allow the royals to meet with family members for horse riding, walks or other outdoor activities. The queen still rides almost daily.