King Charles leads family to church for first Christmas as monarch

Royal looks at ease after being greeted by thousands outside

King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla greet fans outside the Norfolk church. AFP
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King Charles III led Britain’s royal family to a Christmas morning church service for the first time as monarch on Sunday.

The king, 74, looked relaxed as he walked along the gravel path towards the church his late mother so often frequented during her trips to Norfolk.

He was joined by Queen Consort Camilla as they made their way towards St Mary Magdalene Church near Sandringham House.

The queen consort, 75, beamed as she waved to the crowds of well-wishers outside the church. Young and old, some in wheelchairs, had lined the route early on Sunday in the hope of catching a glimpse of the royals.

Later on Sunday, millions will watch the king’s first Christmas Day message.

Prince Louis, four, made his first Christmas Day appearance alongside his parents, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and siblings Prince George, nine, and Princess Charlotte, seven.

The Princess of Wales smiles at crowds of well-wishers as she heads to a Christmas Day church service. Reuters

Prince Harry and Meghan, who quit royal duties in 2020, are understood to be celebrating Christmas at their home in California. The couple’s recent Netflix series, which included accusations of the royals' lying and bullying them, dashed hopes of a reconciliation between the family.

Prince William and his wife Kate were closely followed into the church by Princess Beatrice, her husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, and her stepson Wolfie.

Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank trailed them.

Prince Andrew, who stepped back from royal duties in 2019 following a disastrous TV interview in relation to allegations of sexual assault he faced as well as his close friendship with Jeffery Epstein, walked near his daughters. He has not been seen in public since the queen's funeral in September.

Prince Edward, his wife Sophie Countess of Wessex and their children Lady Louise and James Viscount Severn were also among the royal entourage.

Peter Phillips, the only son of Princess Anne, attended the service with his daughters Savannah and Isla. His ex-wife Autumn Phillips, whom he separated from in 2019, was not present.

Zara Tindall was accompanied by her husband Mike Tindall and their daughters Mia and Lena. Their toddler son Lucas was not present.

It is not custom for royals to speak to members of the public before the church service. However, members of the monarchy sometimes stop to chat with well-wishers after the ceremony.

This year’s gathering at Sandringham is the first time the royal family have spent Christmas at the private royal residence in Norfolk since 2019.

The late queen had spent the festive period at Windsor Castle for two years in a row, in 2020 and 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, before her death in September this year.

Traditionally, royal Christmases at Sandringham feature a turkey lunch at the house before the family settle down to watch TV.

Queen Elizabeth II was fond of hosting traditional festive celebrations at the country estate, having held 32 Christmases at Sandringham House with morning church services a central part of them.

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Updated: December 25, 2022, 11:50 AM