Queen to spend Christmas away from Sandringham for the first time in more than 30 years

Watch: Which royals will be in the Queen’s Christmas bubble?

The Queen will spend Christmas away from Sandringham for the first time in more than 30 years, because of the coronavirus situation.

The Queen would usually go to her Norfolk home over the Christmas period, and stay there until February, but this year she and Prince Philip will stay in Windsor, where they have spent most of the year.

It’s the first time they will have been in Windsor at Christmas since 1987.

In 1988, the festivities moved to Sandringham because Windsor Castle was being rewired.

A palace spokeswoman said: “Having considered all the appropriate advice, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor.”

It’s not clear if the Queen, 94, has decided not to meet with any of the other royals during the short Christmas window offered by the government.

Only three households are allowed to meet together over the Christmas period, with the government allowing the expanded bubbles between 23 December and 27 December.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge along with Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrive at St Mary Magdalene's church for the Royal Family's Christmas Day service on the Sandringham estate in eastern England, Britain, December 25, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge with Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex at St Mary Magdalene's church on Christmas Day 2018. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

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The Queen and Prince Philip’s decision would impact whether members of their family can then see others. For example, if Charles and Camilla join the Queen and Philip, they will be unlikely to be able to see Camilla’s grandchildren.

Prince William and Kate would usually expect to spend Christmas with the Queen in Sandringham, but going to Windsor this year would leave them unable to spend any time with the Middleton family.

Sources have said the monarch and her husband, who is 99, understand their family have “competing demands”.

According to ITV and The Sunday Times, she will also miss out on the Christmas morning service, to avoid crowds gathering to see her.

She will instead worship in private at the Windsor Castle’s chapel.

The Queen will also have to miss another of her Christmas traditions, as she won’t be able to host her annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace.

The smaller size of Sandringham means not all the royals can visit her on the day itself in normal years, and so she hosts a lunch about a week before 25 December for the extended Royal Family.

However it’s unlikely to impact the traditional Christmas broadcast. The Queen was able to record a broadcast during the first lockdown in the UK in accordance with social distance guidelines.

Queen Elizabeth II walks alongside station manager Graeme Pratt as she arrives at King's Lynn railway station in Norfolk, ahead of boarding a train as she returns to London after spending the Christmas period at Sandringham House in north Norfolk. (Photo by Nick Ansell/PA Images via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II with station manager Graeme Pratt at King's Lynn railway station in Norfolk, to go by train to London after spending Christmas period at Sandringham House. (Nick Ansell/PA Images)

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Windsor will be entering Tier 2 when the lockdown in England ends on Tuesday night.

It means the rule of six applies outdoors, with no household mixing inside.

The Queen stays in Norfolk ordinarily until early February, as she chooses to stay there to mark the anniversary of the death of her father, 6 February, in private.

It’s also the date of her accession to the throne.

She usually returns to London by train, departing King’s Lynn station.

But this year she has barely spent any time in Norfolk. She and Philip stayed there on their way back from Scotland in the summer, when they were able to squeeze in their usual holiday to Balmoral.

Prince Philip has lived in Wood Lodge on the Sandringham Estate since he retired from royal duties in 2017.

He was flown down to Windsor in March and has stayed with the Queen since then, the longest time they have been able to spend together in some years.

Watch: The Royal Family at Christmas