Page last updated at 00:30 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008

Royals spend Christmas in Norfolk


The Queen leaving St Mary Magdalene Church

The Queen and other members of the Royal Family have spent Christmas Day at Sandringham in Norfolk.

They attended a Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene church on the royal estate where prayers were said for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Following tradition, the Royal Family watched the Queen's speech together.

During it, she told the nation that although now is a time for celebration, for many this year, it was a "more sombre occasion".

The Queen was joined at church by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and Princes William and Harry.

Also in attendance at the service were the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and his daughters Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Peter Phillips and his wife Autumn, and Daniel and Lady Sarah Chatto.

Sandringham rector the Rev Jonathan Riviere made reference to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.

Afterwards, the Royal Family greeted many of the 2,000 onlookers who had gathered to see them.

Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell said this year's broadcast had a rather sombre feel to it, in keeping with the realities of the economic downturn.

He said: "She draws on her own Christian faith to offer what she hopes will be a message of encouragement and reassurance."

Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain and, naturally, give rise to feelings of insecurity
The Queen

The speech is a chance for the Queen to express her own thoughts on issues, rather than those of her ministers.

She voiced her concern over the economic downturn and the turmoil it may bring.

A month after the attacks in Mumbai and with British troops engaged overseas, the speech also lamented "violence in distant lands".

The Queen said: "Some of those things which could once have been taken for granted suddenly seem less certain and, naturally, give rise to feelings of insecurity."

She continued: "People are touched by events which have their roots far across the world.

I'll watch a Santa Claus movie instead. Just as unreal, but far more enjoyable.
Susan, UK

"Whether it is the global economy or violence in a distant land, the effects can be keenly felt at home."

This year's message also contained footage of Prince Harry presenting awards to 10 "children of courage" - young people who have faced adversity or shown great presence of mind or selflessness in their lives.

The broadcast, in which the Queen spoke about the recent 60th birthday of the Prince of Wales, also contained private footage of Charles as a small child.

The Queen traditionally delivers her address from Buckingham Palace's Music Room.

She stood in front of a grand piano that displays family photographs, with a large Christmas tree in the background.

Produced by the BBC, the speech was also available on the Royal Channel on the YouTube website at the same time and was also shown in Commonwealth countries.

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