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Could new restrictions see Christmas curtailed at Sandringham?

The Royal Family leave Christmas morning service at Sandringham Church   Picture: Paul John Bayfield

The Royal Family leave Christmas morning service at Sandringham Church Picture: Paul John Bayfield

PAUL JOHN BAYFIELD

Could Norfolk’s best-loved Royal tradition be cancelled by coronavirus?

Crowds queue to see the Royal Famil on Christmas Day at Sandringham  Picture: Ian BurtCrowds queue to see the Royal Famil on Christmas Day at Sandringham Picture: Ian Burt

Thousands of well-wishers turn out to greet the Queen and her family on Christmas Day, as they attend morning service at Sandringham Church.

But the latest tightening of the rules restricting gatherings to six after a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections could see the gates stay locked this year.

Social distancing would be almost impossible, as crowds pack into the park outside the church of St Mary Magdalene. Royal fans come from across the country, with some queuing through the night to secure a good vantage point. Some attend every year, while many come from abroad.

Princess Beatrice hugging the Countess of Wessex after the Christmas Day service in 2006  
Picture: Matthew UsherPrincess Beatrice hugging the Countess of Wessex after the Christmas Day service in 2006 Picture: Matthew Usher

MORE - How Christmas Day Royal tradition began in NorfolkAnnouncing the new restrictions, health secretary Matt Hancock said they would be “rigorously enforced” by police. Norfolk Constabulary said arrangements for Christmas Day were “a matter for the palace”.

Buckingham Palace said it was “too early to speculate” over what might happen.

But the restrictions to ban gatherings of more than six people from two families could also mean the Queen will have to scale down her guest list.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall greet well-wishers on Christmas Day at Sandringham Picture: Matthew UsherPrince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall greet well-wishers on Christmas Day at Sandringham Picture: Matthew Usher

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was unable to say whether families would be able to celebrate Christmas together this year, as the Government’s top medic predicted a “difficult” few months ahead over winter.

At a press conference announcing that social gatherings of more than six people would be illegal in England from Monday, Boris Johnson said it “breaks his heart” to have to impose restrictions on families.

He said it was “too early to say” whether big parties could be held over the festive season.

Social distancing would be difficult to enforce on Christmas day at Sandringham  Picture Matthew Usher.Social distancing would be difficult to enforce on Christmas day at Sandringham Picture Matthew Usher.

Were all of the Queen’s immediate family to join her there would be 31 sitting down for Christmas dinner, although that would fall to 27 should the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk decide to remain in America with their son Prince Archie.

The Queen and her family have spent every Christmas at Sandringham since 1988. Sources have claimed the monarch, who is currently staying at Wood Farm Cottage on the estate, is determined to do so this year.

Prior to that, the festive gathering was held at Windsor but festivities were moved to Norfolk while the castle was being rewired and have remained in the county ever since.

The arrival of the Royal Family at King's Lynn station for their annual Christmas and New Year holiday at Sandringham in 1966
. The royal party arrived to be met by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Sir Edmund Bacon. The Queen holds the hand of a young Prince Edward. Picture: Archant LibraryThe arrival of the Royal Family at King's Lynn station for their annual Christmas and New Year holiday at Sandringham in 1966 . The royal party arrived to be met by the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Sir Edmund Bacon. The Queen holds the hand of a young Prince Edward. Picture: Archant Library

Diana, Princess of Wales (left) at Sandringham with Prince William and Harry and the Princess Royal (right) on Christmas Day 1991  Picture: Archant LibraryDiana, Princess of Wales (left) at Sandringham with Prince William and Harry and the Princess Royal (right) on Christmas Day 1991 Picture: Archant Library

The Queen and other members of the Royal family at Sandringham Church for the Christmas service 2005. On the way to church
Picture: Antony KellyThe Queen and other members of the Royal family at Sandringham Church for the Christmas service 2005. On the way to church Picture: Antony Kelly

Royal family members walking to church at Sandringham on Christmas Day  Picture: Paul John BayfieldRoyal family members walking to church at Sandringham on Christmas Day Picture: Paul John Bayfield

Diana, Princess of Wales at Sandringham on Christmas Day, 1990. Picture: Archant LibraryDiana, Princess of Wales at Sandringham on Christmas Day, 1990. Picture: Archant Library

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Sandringham in 2017  Picture: Paul John BayfieldThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex at Sandringham in 2017 Picture: Paul John Bayfield


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