I've sent the Queen a card to say: 'We shall miss you at Sandringham.'

Mary Relph has been a massive fan of the Royal family for more than 70 years.. Picture: Ian Burt

Mary Relph, who has been to see the Queen at Sandringham on Christmas Day almost every year since 1988, will be spending December 25 at home with her collection of Royal memorabilia this year - Credit: Ian Burt

Thousands brave the cold each Christmas for what has become a much-loved Norfolk tradition.

But the grounds at Sandringham will be deserted on December 25 because the Queen has cancelled her festive family gathering.

Queen Elizabeth II receives flowers from children after she attended St Mary Magdalene Church, on th

Children greet the Queen as she leaves church after the Christmas Day service - Credit: PA

For the first time in three decades, the monarch and her extended family will not be spending Christmas on the Royal Estate.

Buckingham Palace said the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had decided to spend Christmas quietly in Windsor.

The couple normally host their large family at Sandringham over the holidays and are greeted by thousands as they attend church on Christmas Day.

Prince Harry on Christmas Day at Sandringham. Picture: Ian Burt

Prince Harry on Christmas Day at Sandringham in 2015 - Credit: Ian Burt


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Among them every year since 1988, when the family moved their celebration from Windsor Castle to Norfolk, has been Mary Relph.

Now in her 80s, the retired van driver's fascination with all things Royal began with a trip to the Sandringham Flower Show as a 10-year-old girl, when she spoke to the late Queen Mother.

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Since then, she has been a regular sight at the Sandringham Flower Show and outside church when the Queen attends services at different churches on the estate.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attend St Peter & St Paul church at West Newton - The Queen talk

The Queen talks to Mary Relph outside church at West Newton in 2015 - Credit: Matthew Usher

"I think she's made the right decision not to come," she said. "You've only got to look at all those thousands of people who go there, including me.

"You can't really blame the Queen, you don't know who's about in the crowd do you."

Mrs Relph has developed a rapport with the Royals since her childhood visits to the flower show, which the Queen Mother attended every summer.

"I used to go to see the Queen Mother at the flower show for years and years," she said. "She was a lovely old lady, she always used to come and have a chat with you."

Mary Relph has been a massive fan of the Royal family for more than 70 years.. Picture: Ian Burt

Mary Relph has been a massive fan of the Royal family for more than 70 years. - Credit: Ian Burt

One cold day at Sandringham a couple of winters back, Mrs Relph was scolded by the Queen when she saw her outside church. The monarch asked her what she was doing out on such a freezing day after her recent illness.  

"She was always concerned about how I was," said Mrs Relph. "She knew I'd had an operation and when I went to West Newton, she asked me: '

This year, she will be spending Christmas at her home near Downham Market, which is filled with Royal memorabilia, instead of standing outside in the cold hoping to catch a glimpse and a quick word with the Queen.

Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church 2017 - Paul John Bayfield

Royal Family members walk from Sandringham House to the church service in 2017 - Credit: Paul John Bayfield

"I just love going to see them all," she said. "I've had a lot of pleasure running around after the Queen at Balmoral, Windsor and Sandringham over the years.

"Camilla was always very friendly with me so I've sent her a card. I've sent the Queen one too, saying we shall miss you at Sandringham this year."


The Royal Family attend Sandringham Church on Christmas Day 2013 - The Queen recieves flowers. Pictu

Children give bunches of flowers to the Queen outside church in 2013 - Credit: Matthew Usher

It is understood the Queen will not be attending church on Christmas Day to avoid large crowds of well-wishers gathering.

Other members of her family will be spending Christmas at their homes. 

It is not known whether the Queen will come to Sandringham after Christmas to spend her accession day, February 6, in Norfolk, in honour of her father King George VI who passed away at Sandringham in 1953.

Queen Elizabeth II walks along the platform at King's Lynn railway station in Norfolk, as she return

In recent years, the Queen would travel to and from Norfolk for Christmas by train - Credit: Chris Radburn

Royal Family - Royal Group ShotsFor years the arrival of the Royal Family at King's Lynn stati

The Royal Family arrives at King's Lynn station for their Christmas break in December, 1966. - Credit: Archant

Prince Harry on Christmas Day at Sandringham. Picture: Ian Burt

Prince Harry on Christmas Day at Sandringham in 2015 - Credit: Ian Burt

Members of the Royal Family leave Sandringham Parish church after a Christmas Day service conducted

Members of the Royal Family leave Sandringham church after a Christmas Day service in 1993 - Credit: Archant

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as they leaves St Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leave church in 2014 - Credit: Chris Radburn

From left, Prince William, Prince Harry and Peter Phillips after the royal family

From left, Prince William, Prince Harry and Peter Phillips after the royal family attended a Christmas Day church service in 2000 - Credit: Fiona Hanson

The Queen and members of the Royal Family prepare to brave the elements after the Christmas morning

The Queen and members of the Royal Family brace themselves for the wintry weather as they leave church in 1990 - Credit: Archant

Christmas Day at Sandringham. Picture: Ian Burt

Well-wishers line the path, hoping to exchange greetings with one of the Royals - Credit: Ian Burt

ROYAL FAMILYPRINCESS OF WALES VISIT TO SANDRINGHAM - CHRISTMAS DAYDECEMBER 1994PRINT C2105NE

Diana, Princess of Wales, at Sandringham on Christmas Day, 1994 - Credit: John Hocknell

The Royal Family at Sandringham in December 1951, the King's last Christmas, with Queen Elizabeth, P

The Royal Family at Sandringham in December 1951, King George VI's last Christmas, with Queen Elizabeth, the then Princess Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. - Credit: The Royal Collection © reserved

ROYAL FAMILYPRINCESS DIANA VISIT TO SANDRINGHAM - CHRISTMAS DAY 1990PRINT C2128NEG CD15724-21

Diana, Princess of Wales, greets well-wishers outside church in 1990 - Credit: John Hocknell


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