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Queen and Duke hit by heavy colds

By Tony Jones

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have delayed their journey to Norfolk for Christmas after coming down with "heavy colds", Buckingham Palace has said.

The Queen and Philip were expected to travel from London to King's Lynn by train on Wednesday and then on to their nearby private Sandringham estate.

But a Buckingham Palace spokesman said yesterday: "The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have heavy colds, and so have decided not to travel to Sandringham today."

On Tuesday it was announced that the Queen would be stepping down as the patron of 25 national organisations at the end of her 90th birthday year, with the patronages passing to other members of the royal family.

The move is likely to be seen as a common-sense decision that acknowledges the Queen's advancing years, but Buckingham Palace stressed the monarch is still patron of around 600 organisations. The Queen and Duke (95) were surrounded by their family on Tuesday when they hosted their annual Christmas lunch for dozens of relatives at Buckingham Palace.

Despite their advancing years, the couple appear to remain in good health and have missed few official engagements in recent years due to illness.

The Queen was treated for the symptoms of gastroenteritis in 2013 and stayed overnight in a private hospital being assessed by doctors, and cancelled an official trip to Rome.

And in June last year Buckingham Palace took the unusual step of confirming the Queen's visit to a private hospital for a routine medical check-up following speculation on social media about the state of her health.

Philip joked about his good health last month on a visit with the Queen to London's Francis Crick Institute - a major biomedical research centre - asking a flu expert: "Why haven't I had flu for the last 40 years?''

In May an undisclosed minor ailment forced the Duke to miss commemorations marking the anniversary of the First World War Battle of Jutland in Orkney.

Meanwhile, The Prince of Wales took a special gift on a visit to a hospice - a chocolate model of his Highgrove House.

The cake, made by Chocolaterie Artisanale Alexandre in Nyon, Switzerland, included chocolate figures of Charles and wife Camilla, as well as the Prince of Wales's feathers and the gardens of the home.

Charles told staff, patients and volunteers at The Ayrshire Hospice in Ayr that he was "interested to see who does the first demolition job" on the cake.

In return for his gift he was presented with a hand-painted scarf for the Duchess of Cornwall and a box of toys for his grandchildren.

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