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Philip goes solo: Queen misses church after catching a cold as Royals descend on Sandringham for Christmas celebrations
The monarch missed the service for the first time in living memoryOther members of the Royal Family were led to church by Prince PhilipSpokesman describes The Queen's illness as the 'tail end of a cold'Prince Andrew joined daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess EugeniePrince Edward, Sophie Wessex and Lady Louise Windsor also attended
17:20 GMT, 23 December 2012
The Queen missed church today after being hit by a nasty bug, but insists she will be well enough to celebrate Christmas.
The 86-year-old monarch has been laid low by a illness which a spokesman described yesterday as 'the tail end of a heavy cold'.
Yet it was enough to make her miss Sunday service at Sandringham for the first time in living memory, much to the disappointment of a crowd of 100 well-wishers who waited outside the 11am service at St Mary Magdalene Church.
Service: Prince Philip arrives without The Queen but with Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie
Tradition: Prince Philip is joined by Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, Sophie Wessex and Lady Louise Windsor
Other members of the Royal family led by Prince Philip, 91, did attend the service, however, walking the few hundred yards from Sandringham House.
Philip was accompanied by Prince Andrew, his daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, Prince Edward, his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex and their nine-year-old daughter Lady Louise Windsor.
Hayley Shaw of Norwich, Norfolk, who was in the crowd, said: 'A member of the Royal entourage came out just before the service and told everyone that the Queen would not be coming.
'Somebody said they had come all the way from Wales and the aide replied that he was sure the Queen would be at church as normal on Christmas Day.
'When Sophie Wessex came out of the church, I overheard her talking to the vicar, suggesting that someone had a sore throat and would have found it hard to sing. I guess she was talking about the Queen.
It was a disappointment not to see the Queen and it made me a little bit worried about her – but Philip was looking very healthy.'
Well-wishers: Prince Philip and Prince Andrew outside the church, where around 100 people had gathered
Illness: The Queen was absent at the church service for the first time in living memory
Missed: A spokesman described The Queen's illness as the 'tail end of a cold'
Another onlooker added: 'Word went around a few minutes before the service that the Queen would not be in attendance – but no explanation was given.
'It left everyone wondering what the problem could be. The Queen is normally a stickler for routine and nobody can remember her missing a service here before.
'But Prince Philip and the other Royals seemed quite happy and were smiling which suggested it might not be anything too serious.' A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: 'She is getting over the tail end of a cold. That is why she was not at church today.
'It will certainly be business as usual next week. She hopes to be at church on Tuesday for the Christmas Day service – absolutely.'
Public appearance: The Queen was last seen in public boarding a train to Norfolk in London three days ago
The Royal party walked back to
Sandringham House after the 45 minute service. Eugenie and Beatrice
stopped to accept gifts of flowers from several children.
An estate worker at Sandringham said: 'This has taken everyone by surprise. Apparently the Queen was fine on Saturday when she gave out Christmas presents to staff.'
The Queen was last seen in public on Thursday when she and Prince Philip caught a train from King's Cross to King's Lynn, Norfolk, at the start of her Sandringham break.
Last year Prince Philip fell ill over Christmas at Sandringham. He underwent surgery to have a stent inserted into a blocked artery and spent four nights in hospital.
The Queen traditionally spends the
festive period with her family gathered around her at her Norfolk
estate. But this year there will be some empty spaces around the table
on Christmas Day.
Happy family: 'The other Royals were smiling which suggested it might not be anything too serious'
Stroll in the park: The Royals walked the few hundred yards to the church from Sandringham House
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are planning to spend Christmas at the Middleton family home. And Prince Harry is currently serving as an Apache pilot in Afghanistan.
Yesterday, St James's Palace said Prince William and his pregnant wife are to spend the day privately in Bucklebury, Berkshire – a decision taken with the approval of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
But the pair do plan to visit Sandringham at some point over the festive period.
Kayleigh Allen, nine, who was standing in the crowd outside the church, brought a special soft toy labelled My First Toy for the pregnant Duchess.
Last year, hundreds of well-wishers turned out to see the Duchess of Cambridge attend her first Christmas Day service at church in Sandringham.