Photo gallery: Thousands gather to greet the Queen and Royal Family at Sandringham - but there's no Prince George
PUBLISHED: 16:42 25 December 2013 | UPDATED: 16:43 25 December 2013
© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2013
The biggest crowds for years gathered at the gates of Sandringham this morning in anticipation of a glimpse of Prince George on Christmas Day.
But their hopes were dashed as his parents, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, walked hand in hand to the church without him.
Estimates put the crowd at more than 5,000 – the largest for many years. Many came to see the latest addition to the family, little Prince George, who is spending his first Christmas in Norfolk, along with around 20 members of the Royal Family, who arrived yesterday.
But the baby heir was not among the Royal party, who started arriving for the Christmas Day service at Sandringham Church at around 10.55am.
Most walked from the house to the tiny church, led by Prince Philip and the Duke of York.
As they did so, an unknown pilot circling high above left what appeared to be an aerial tribute to the prince, creating a baby’s head and a pair of kisses in vapour trails from a light aircraft.
Also attending this morning service were Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, their children Lady Louise and Viscount Severn, Prince Harry and Mike Tindall.
Zara Tindall, heavily pregnant, arrived in a limousine with the Queen, who wore a rusted orange coat and a black hat.
December 25 is normally the only day of the year on which senior members of the Royal Family are seen together in the same place.
Hundreds of children lined up with flowers to present the Queen with flowers and presents after the service, which was broadcast to the crowd outside the church via a PA system.
One of the first in the queue to meet the Monarch was scout Freedom Scott Tansley, 11, from Methwold.
Freedom and his mother Peg were also the first in the queue which formed outside the gates, arriving at 4am.
Mrs Tansley said they weren’t the only early arrivals, prepared to wait for hours for a chance to greet members of the Royal Family.
“It was a mad house,” she said. “It’s incomprehensible. People were coming in after us at 4am.”
Freedom said he had spoken to the Queen after the service. He said: “She said ‘Good heavens, you’re back again’ because I come here a lot.”
The 11-year-old, who has collected all 72 scout activity badges, also spoke to the Duchess of Cambridge about the movement.
“I thanked her for all she’s done for scouting and she congratulated me on all my badges,” he said. “She said she appreciated me wearing my uniform and promoting scouting.”
Veteran Royal watcher Mary Relph, 79, from Shouldham, was waiting at the steps of the church as the Queen and other members of the party left after the service.
She was greeted by Prince Harry, sporting a beard, as he came down the steps with Prince William.
“I asked them to pose for me for a picture and they did,” said Mrs Relph, who has been a regular most Christmas days since 1988, when the Royals came to Sandringham for Christmas because Windsor Castle was being re-wired.
Fellow regular Alan Mowton, 54, from Boston said: “It was a lovely, lovely morning. Camilla came over to say hello.
“There was a great atmosphere. It was nice to see the Monarch and three future monarchs here, it was a nice occasion.”
After church, the family sit down to a Norfolk turkey, with all the trimmings, before they watch the Queen’s Speech. The monarch’s address to the nation was a tradition which began in Norfolk, in 1932, when the Queen’s grandfather, King George V, took to the airwaves to address the Commonwealth.