Photo gallery: Crowds greet the Queen, William, Kate and other Royals at Christmas Day service at Sandringham
- Credit: PA
Thousands greeted the Queen and members of the Royal Family when they attended the traditional Christmas Day service at Sandringham today.
Many had queued since well before dawn for a vantage point opposite the Church of St Mary Magdalene, on the Royal Estate.
They were greeted by a smaller than expected Royal party, walking from nearby Sandringham House for the 11am service.
Leading the way from Sandringham to St Mary Magdalene church was the Princess Royal, flanked by the Duke of Edinburgh and her husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence. They were followed by the Prince of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were holding hands, and other members of the family.
As Prince Harry walked past, some of the crowds cried out his name and he smiled at the well-wishers.
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The Duchess of Cambridge's parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, attended the service, along with her brother James and sister Pippa.
The Duchess of Cornwall was not present. Aides said she was recovering from a back injury.
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Also missing was Prince George, who was being looked after by his nanny. Viscount Severn, the son of the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Zara Phillips and her husband Mike Tindall, the Linleys, Chattos and Armstrong-Joneses were also absent.
The Queen arrived by car and was greeted by Canon Jonathan Riviere, Rector of Sandringham.
The one hour service, which began with the National Anthem, was broadcast to the crowd outside.
The Queen left immediately after the service, while family members exchanged greetings with the crowd lining the path back to Sandringham House.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry stayed back and talked to the crowds.
The Duchess apologised to a mother and her young daughter, among 2,000 wellwishers outside the church, for not bringing her son.
When Maddison Neal, aged eight from nearby Dersingham, gave Kate a Milky Bar selection box for George, she replied: 'I'm sorry we didn't bring George but you would have heard him in the church.'
Maddison's mother Sarah, 37, said: 'We were hoping Kate would take the present but we didn't know if we'd be lucky enough to meet her.
'Maddison met George on Sunday at the service at Anmer church. She helped him with his lantern and he blew her a kiss.'
The Duchess was taken by a polar bear hat worn by five-year-old Hannah Fewell, from North Elmham, near Dereham, who waited with her sister Emelie, aged four, so see the Queen.
Their grandmother Patricia Cushing, 65, from Yaxham, said: 'Kate asked her if she got it from Father Christmas. She said how much she liked the hat.'
Marie-Ann Fewell, the girls' mother, said Prince Harry joked that the Royal Family were not really singing the hymms which were broadcast on the PA system from the church.
'Harry said they were playing a tape, because their singing's so awful,' she said. 'I think he was joking.'
Kim Dawson, 43, from Downham Market, came to see the royals with her mother Elise Dawson, 83, from Bedford.
William stopped to chat to the pair and the 43-year-old said the Duke told her Prince George was doing really really well and that they left him at the nursery because it was a bit cold.
'But they were looking forward to going back to see what destruction he's created - George was having a lovely day.'
Many ardent royal watchers queued from the early hours to ensure they got a good vantage point.
Student David Chapman, 21, was first in the queue, with his mother Susan, aged 48.
The pair had come from Long Sutton in Lincolnshire, and had been waiting since about 6.20am.
He said: 'It's just something different. I have been studying abroad, so what better way to submerge myself in Britishness than to get up at stupid o'clock to see the royal family.'
Alan Mowton, 55, a farmer from near Boston, in Lincolnshire, said: 'It's just become a bit of a tradition, really. It's always nice to see so many members of the royal family on Christmas Day.
'I have been coming for 36 years and I have seen a lot of changes in that time.'
The crowd also included a group of Americans from Lakenheath, and Mara Jordan, from Norfolk, Virginia, said her partner works there.
She said that when she is in America, she is a big royal watcher on TV, enjoying events such as royal weddings and waiting for the birth of Prince George.
She said many Americans come to Sandringham because they don't have anything like the Royal Family in their own country.
After the service, the Royals traditionally sit down to a Christmas dinner of Norfolk turkey.