Will the Queen spend Christmas in Norfolk with her bubble?

Queen Elizabeth II recording her Christmas Day message at Buckingham Palace. Christmas will be diffe

The Queen will have a much reduced family gathering if she spends Christmas at Sandringham. - Credit: PA

The easing of lockdown so families can spend Christmas together leaves the Queen with some difficult decisions.

Traditionally, the royal family gathers at Sandringham for a festive stay. But, like the rest of the nation, the monarch and her relatives will have to carefully chose who to have in their Christmas bubble, and where to stay.

Three households can mix from December 23 to 27, but the bubble must be exclusive over the five-day period, meaning people cannot shift from one group to another.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, however, have a large family of four children and eight grandchildren, who are all nearly grown up, along with eight great-grandchildren.

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

Last year, those joining the monarch in Norfolk included the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, the Duke of York, Princess Beatrice and her then fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

It is understood the decision on where and with whom the Queen will spend the Christmas period will not be made for another few weeks.
The royals will also have to decide whether it is wise to visit the 94-year-old monarch and 99-year-old Philip.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned families they must make a "personal judgment" about the risks of coronavirus to vulnerable loved ones.

Options could include the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall joining the Queen as one third of her bubble.
But this would mean Camilla would be unable to see her beloved children and grandchildren.

Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church 2017 - Paul John Bayfield

Royal Family members walk to the Christmas Day service at Sandringham church. - Credit: Paul John Bayfield

The Queen may invite her youngest son Edward, with his wife Sophie and their children Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and 12-year-old Viscount Severn, who form one household.

The Princess Royal might attend instead or the Duke of York, but they have grown up children, with whom they might form a bubble.
William and Kate with George, Charlotte and Louis could spend Christmas with the Middleton family in Berkshire.

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But Carole and Michael Middleton have two other children as well as Kate - Pippa Matthews and James Middleton, meaning one of the three offspring would not be allowed to gather for the festive celebrations.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are grieving the loss of their second child after a miscarriage, are thousands of miles away, living in the US.

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

If the Queen does choose to send Christmas at Sandringham, it seems unlikely she will travel to Norfolk by train as she has in recent years. - Credit: Chris Radburn/PA

The restrictions also mean the Queen will not be able to host her traditional pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace when the wider royal family usually gathers each year for a get-together a week or so before Christmas.

Rules would permit the monarch and Philip to move to Sandringham during the five-day period. But they could decide to stay at Windsor Castle, where they have spent much of lockdown being looked after by a reduced number of staff dubbed HMS Bubble.

If the Queen remains at Windsor, it would be the first time in more than 30 years that she has spent Christmas at the historic Berkshire castle.

During the 1960s, when the Queen's children were young, many Christmases were celebrated at Windsor. But since 1988, when the castle was being rewired, royal Christmases returned to Sandringham.

Christmas Morning Service at Sandringham Church 2017 - Paul John Bayfield

It is unlikely the usual crowds will be allowed to gather outside the church at Sandringham to greet the Queen and members of her family this year. - Credit: Paul John Bayfield

Wherever the Queen is, she can be expected to attend church on Christmas Day. But if she and family members are in Norfolk, it is unlikely the crowds of well-wishers who traditionally gather outside church to greet them will be allowed to do so.

After a morning visit to church, the family traditionally indulge in turkey, reared at Sandringham, before settling down to the Queen's Christmas Speech.

The Queen's address is recorded in advance - but it will be the first time a Christmas broadcast has been carried out amid such unprecedented restrictions and unusual times. 

The monarch will take any changes in her stride - she has already delivered two rare addresses to the nation during the pandemic.
Her first televised speech during lockdown in April took place at Windsor in a large room to allow sufficient distance between the Queen and the sole cameraman, who was dressed in PPE and was the only other person in the room.

PA file photo dated 31/12/53 of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II making her Christmas broadcast to the

The Queen makes her Christmas broadcast early in her reign. The tradition began when King George V addressed the world from Sandringham in 1932. - Credit: PA

The broadcast is a traditional feature of the festive season where the head of state can express her thoughts about the past year.
She will no doubt use her address to focus on the challenges that have faced the nation and Commonwealth in 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis and how the country has responded, as well as drawing on her faith.

The speech is written by the Queen herself and is one of the rare occasions when she does not turn to the Government for advice and is able to voice her own views.

The tradition began when King George V broadcast live from Sandringham on Christmas Day in 1932.

Buckingham Palace has so far declined to comment on the family's plans for this year.

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