The Queen and Royal Family at Sandringham on Christmas Day over the years
- Credit: Archant
For three decades, unique Royal event saw comings and goings at a tiny Norfolk church broadcast to millions around the world.
Christmas Day will be the first in more than 30 years when the Queen and her family have not attended morning service at Sandringham.
They began spending their Christmas break in Norfolk in 1988 when Windsor Castle was being re-wired and the tradition would have continued this year had coronavirus not intervened.
For most years, the day was the only one all year when the entire Royal Family could be seen together. The Royal Christmas would begin with the Queen travelling to Norfolk some days before December 25, to oversee preparations including choosing a tree from her saw mill.
Family members would arrive at Sandringham on Christmas Eve. Presents would be laid out on trestle table and opened that evening in a nod t he royals' German ancestry.
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Instead of lavish gifts, they would try to outdo each other buy seeing who could buy the tackiest present.
The following morning, just before 11am, family members would set off to walk the half mile or so from Sandringham House to the nearby church, while the Queen would be driven in her Bentley.
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Over the decades it grew into a major public event, with thousands cramming into the field beside the church to see the royals.
After the service, family members would chat to well-wishers, while until recent years children would queue with cards and flowers for the Queen.
Both the usual gathering of around 30 family members would not be possible this year because of Covid - let alone a large crowd.
So the Queen and Prince Philip are spending Christmas at Windsor Castle, while other family members are remaining at their homes.
Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and their three children are reported to have travelled to Anmer Hall, their Norfolk retreat, some days before the latest lockdown measures were announced.