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The BBC's Royal Correspondent, Jennie Bond
"A long and painful convalescence for the Queen Mother"
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Sunday, 24 December, 2000, 12:55 GMT
Queen Mother joins in Royal service

The Queen Mother makes her first public appearance since her fall
The Queen Mother joined members of the Royal Family at a Christmas Eve church service at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

She was driven to door of Sandringham's parish church in a golf buggy, making her first public appearance since falling and breaking her collarbone nearly two months ago.

Inside the church she sat next to the Queen, who wore a pink coat and matching hat, Prince Charles and her grandsons Harry and William, recently returned from expedition in Chile.

The Queen receives flowers from a wellwisher
The service, conducted by the Rector of Sandringham, Canon George Hall, was televised live for the first time on BBC One's Morning Worship programme.

Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey gave the sermon to the 300-strong congregation.

The Duke of York, who was accompanied by his daughters Beatrice and Eugenie, read one of the lessons.

Other royals in the congregation included the Princess Royal, her husband Tim Lawrence and her son Peter Phillips, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

Zara Phillips, injured in a car accident on Friday, and Princess Margaret did not attend the service.

'Names not numbers'

It is the first time the Queen has invited Dr Carey to preach a sermon at her parish church on the royal estate.

He spoke of the importance of names, rather than the ever increasing numbers attached to people's identities.

"National Insurance numbers, credit card numbers, passport numbers and so on. Sometimes it feels that without a number we hardly exist," he said.

The message of Christmas is: 'You matter to God!'

Archbishop of Canterbury
"I am not suggesting a return to some supposed rural paradise.

"But we can and must guard against mere numbers becoming more important than the people, relationships and communities whose reality they hide."

He also said it was sad that in the jubilee year 2000 the celebrations in Jesus's birthplace Bethlehem had been cancelled because of the continuing violence in the Holy Land.

The service was relayed to the crowd waiting outside who presented flowers to the Queen Mother and the Queen as they left the small Victorian Church of St Mary Magdalene.

Prince William in Chile
Prince William has returned from Chile
The Queen Mother has spent the last seven weeks recuperating at her London home, Clarence House.

On Friday, she was flown by helicopter from RAF Northolt to Sandringham, to join members of the Royal Family including Prince William, who has just returned from his 10-week visit to Chile.

Dr Carey is scheduled to have lunch with the Queen at Sandringham House before returning to Canterbury later on Sunday.

Members of the Royal Family will return to St Mary Magdalene's again on Christmas Day to attend morning service.

All senior Royals gathering at Sandringham are expected to arrive by tea-time on Christmas Eve, the time they traditionally open their presents.

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