Queen cancels Christmas break in Norfolk because of coronavirus

The Royal Family leave Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church 2017 - Paul John Bayfield

The Royal Family leave Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church. - Credit: Paul John Bayfield

The Queen will not be spending Christmas in Norfolk, Buckingham Palace has confirmed.

Instead the 94-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip, 99, will be spending the festive season at Windsor.

A palace spokesman said: "“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.”

Members of the Royal Family traditionally gather at Sandringham each December. Thousands gather to see them attend the Christmas Day service at the nearby church.

But the usual gathering of 30 or so family members would not have been possible with restrictions on the number of households who can gather in a Christmas bubble.

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Social distancing would also have been impossible among the crowd of well-wishers who queue from the early hours to see them.

This year will be the first since 1988 that the Queen has not spent Christmas at Sandringham. In recent years, she has arrived by scheduled train.

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She usually returns to London after February 6, the date she acceded to the throne after her father King George VI died in his sleep at Sandringham in 1952.

The Queen would usually arrive the week before Christmas to oversee preparations, including decorations and the selection of a tree from her nearby sawmill.

Family members would arrive on Christmas Eve, when they would open their presents after a drinks reception.

On Christmas Day, the Queen would travel to Sandringham church by car, while the rest of her family would walk to the 11am service, exchanging greetings with well-wishers lining the path.

After the service, they would return to the house for a Christmas dinner of  Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings, before watching the Queen's Christmas message on TV like countless families up and down the land.

There was earlier speculation that the Queen and Duke might spend Christmas at Sandringham with a reduced 'bubble' of family members including the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their family.

It is not yet clear whether any family members will be joining them at Windsor.

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