By Chris Bishop
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
More than 1,000 wellwishers turned out to greet the Queen and members of the Royal Family as they attended a Christmas Day service in Norfolk yesterday.
Some of them arrived long before it got light in the hope of meeting the Royals, who gather each Christmas at Sandringham.
The Queen arrived by limousine, accompanied by her granddaughters, princesses Eugenie and Beatrice.
There were claps and shouts of Merry Christmas as the Queen, wearing a bright turquoise coat dress and matching hat, climbed the steps of the little carr stone Church of St Mary Magdalene.
The 86-year-old Monarch missed a service last Sunday because she was recovering from a cold. She also attended an earlier service at Sandringham yesterday morning, before the grounds were opened to the public.
Prince Philip, who was forced to miss the occasion last year because he was being treated for a blocked coronary artery, led the Royal Family as they walked to the church from Sandringham House.
The 91-year-old Duke looked in good health, as he exchanged greetings with the crowds lining both sides of the path.
Walking with him were Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex, their daughter Lady Louise, and Prince Andrew.
Also present were Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Princess Royal and her husband Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence, her son Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn.
Also in attendance were the Princess Royal’s daughter Zara Phillips and her husband - England rugby player Mike Tindall.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were absent from the traditional Sandringham festivities.
Prince William and his pregnant wife, who spent the day with the Middleton family in Berkshire, are expected to travel to up to Sandringham over the next few days.
Prince Harry is serving as an Apache pilot in Afghanistan. During the 45-minute service, the Revd Jonathan Riviere, Rector of Sandringham, asked the congregation to pray for service personnel spending Christmas away from home and their families.
Hymms, carols and the National Anthem were relayed to the crowd outside, many of whom sang along to Good Christian men, Rejoice, and While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night.
More than 50 young children lined up with flowers and cards, as the Queen and her family left the church.
One of the first in the queue was Freedom Scott Tansley, aged 10, who presented the Queen with a teddy bear decorated with badges commemorating her Silver, Gold and Diamond jubilees.
Freedom said he had not had a chance to open his own Christmas presents, because he had got up at 4am with his mother Peg and father Dennis to set off for Sandringham from their home in Methwold.
“I’d miss any presents to see the Queen,” he said. “It’s priceless. She liked the teddy I gave her and she was very pleased to see me again. She was very interested in my new scout uniform.”
Mother Peg Tansley, 43, said: “He’s a massive fan of the Queen because he’s a Scout and she is the patron. He has known her since he was in the Beavers.”
Sheila Clark travelled from Glasgow for the occasion. She presented the Duchess of Cornwall with a picture she had taken of her at this summer’s Sandringham Flower Show.
“I just think it’s nice to be able to spend a bit of Christmas Day with them,” said Miss Clark, 55. “It’s nice that they let us share the service, it’s always a lovely atmosphere and it’s a nice way to end the Diamond Jubilee Year.”
Tess Gilder, from Park House Hotel for disabled people on the Royal Estate, said the Prince of Wales had paused to speak to residents.
She said: “Last year Prince Harry had his picture taken with our teddy and we brought the bear again today. He said he would tell Harry.
“Sophie and Edward remarked on how cold it was and took an interest in what we’ll be doing later. We told him we’d be having mulled wine and he said that sounded nice.”
Phoenix Stanford, eight, and sister Evangeline, five, from RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, wore Santa hats as they met the Queen.
Phoenix said: “The Queen said they were lovely flowers. She didn’t mention our hats.”
Their mother, Senny Stanford, said: “Charles and Camilla spoke to us and said it was very cold. Charles gave us a few tips on how to keep warm.”
Veteran Royal watcher Mary Relph, 78, from Shouldham, said the Duchess wished her a Merry Christmas. “Charles said: ‘You’re here again,” she added.
After returning to the nearby house, the Royal Family sat down to a Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings.
After their Christmas Dinner, the family usually watch the Queen’s Speech - like millions elsewhere around the world.