Could new restrictions see Christmas curtailed at Sandringham?
- Credit: PAUL JOHN BAYFIELD
Could Norfolk’s best-loved Royal tradition be cancelled by coronavirus?
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.
MORE - How Christmas Day Royal tradition began in Norfolk Announcing 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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.