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Friday, December 25, 1998 Published at 14:50 GMT


Christmas crowds for royals

Queen and Queen mother arrived together at church

The BBC's Daniela Relph: "Biggest gathering of senior royals"
Hundreds of people waited in the rain outside Sandringham to see members of the Royal Family attend their traditional Christmas morning service.

A total of 15 senior royals congregated at St Mary Magdalen's Church at the estate.

The 98-year-old Queen Mother, wearing a cerise outfit, arrived in a Royal limousine with the Queen, who wore purple, and Princess Margaret, who was in grey with a matching fur hat.

The Prince of Wales and Harry led the Royal party on foot from Sandringham House to the church.

Royal pocession

The party included the Duke of Edinburgh, Duke of York, with daughters Princess Beatrice, 10, and Princess Eugenie, eight, Prince Edward, the Princess Royal and husband Captain Timothy Laurence, with William and Zara.

Artist Daniel Chatto walked behind with the Queen's equerry, Squadron Leader Simon Brailsford.

Princess Margaret's daughter, Lady Sarah Chatto, who is pregnant, did not attend, while the Princess Royal's 21-year-old son, Peter Phillips, is not at Sandringham to keep his sister Zara and William company.

[ image: Other royals walked to church]
Other royals walked to church
Princess Margaret's son, Viscount Linley, and his wife Serina, are also having a Christmas away from the Royal Family.

Shy Prince William teamed up with his 17-year-old cousin Zara Phillips.

The two teenagers stuck together during the Royal Family's traditional Christmas morning church service at Sandringham on the Queen's Norfolk estate.

After the 40-minute service stood together outside the small parish church.

Prince William, the Prince of Wales and Prince Harry, he chatted to onlookers, including people in wheelchairs from neighbouring Park House, the birthplace of his mother, which is now an old people's home.

[ image: Duke of York and his daughters attended]
Duke of York and his daughters attended
Prince Philip joked with one member of the crowd who was dressed as Father Christmas, asking him: "Who let you in?"

"I'm here because I've lost my reindeer," replied Santa, alias Roger Death, 64, from Roydon, Norfolk.

After the service, the Royals did a short walkabout which was curtailed by rain.

But they took time to chat to well-wishers, who gave them flowers and Christmas gifts.

The royals open their presents on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day, and the family had arrived at Sandringham House by yesterday teatime.

Before the Christmas morning church service, the Queen and confirmed members of her family took Communion.

After lunch, their main meal of the day, the Royal Family then watch the Queen's Christmas Broadcast on television at 3pm.

And on Boxing Day, the family is expected to hold a shoot.

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