Belfast Telegraph

Young royals join Queen for first time at Christmas Day service

The Queen attending the Christmas Day church service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate
The Queen attending the Christmas Day church service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince George and Princess Charlotte

By Sam Russell

Prince George and Princess Charlotte have joined the Queen at the royal family's traditional Christmas Day church service on her Sandringham estate for the first time.

George (6) and four-year-old Charlotte walked the short distance from Sandringham House to St Mary Magdalene Church hand in hand with their parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Prince of Wales walked alongside them.

One-year-old Prince Louis stayed at the house.

The 93-year-old Queen, wearing a red coat and hat, arrived at the church in a maroon Bentley with the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Duke of Edinburgh (98) who was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve, was at Sandringham but did not attend church.

He had spent four nights at the King Edward VII Hospital in London to receive treatment for what was described as a "pre-existing condition".

Philip, who retired from public duties in 2017, did not attend last year's church service either despite being in good health at the time.

The Duke of York, who has had a tumultuous end to the year after his disastrous appearance on the BBC's Newsnight programme where he was interviewed by Emily Maitlis about his links to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, walked side by side with Charles to a private service at 9am but did not attend the 11am service.

Andrew remained at Sandringham House to spend time with the Duke of Edinburgh, a source said, which was the Duke of York's personal decision.

Andrew's attempt to explain his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein - who later committed suicide while awaiting trial - backfired and the Prince was heavily criticised for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein's victims and remorse over his friendship with the disgraced American financier.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were also absent this year, instead opting to spend seven-month-old Archie's first Christmas with the duchess's mother, Doria Ragland, in Canada.

Others notables who attended the main morning service included Princess Beatrice at Sandringham and her fiance, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

The Queen walked unaided down the church steps after the service and left in her chauffeured car with Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

The Duchess of Cambridge, holding her daughter's hand, curtseyed to the Queen from the steps as the car departed.

As they made the return journey after the service was over, the Cambridges spoke to some of the many well-wishers who were waiting to catch a glimpse of the royal family.

Royal-watcher Gemma Clark (39) who had travelled from her home in Long Sutton, Lincolnshire with her family, gave Charlotte an inflatable flamingo and said she seemed pleased with the gift.

"She said 'Thank you'," said Ms Clark, who was in a wheelchair.

The flamingo was called Felicity, Ms Clark said, adding: "But Charlotte may call it whatever she likes now."

"It was a birthday present," she explained. "My sister bought me it for my birthday and I truthfully didn't like it - but we have adventures with her."

She said George and Charlotte were "brilliant" and that they both hugged her.

"It made my day," she added.

Later in the day, Kensington Palace released a new family portrait taken by the Duchess of Cambridge, showing Prince William with Princes Louis and George and Princess Charlotte.

At Sandringham, the Royal family traditionally indulge in turkey, reared on the estate, before settling down to watch TV - including the Queen's Christmas Speech.

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