Her Majesty will remain at Windsor Castle for her first festive season without the Duke of EdinburghThe Queen cancels Christmas at Sandringham as Covid concerns mount
The Queen has cancelled plans to host Christmas at Sandringham for the second year running, as Buckingham Palace confirms she will remain at Windsor Castle for her first festive season without the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Queen, who is 95, has decided to call off the Royal family’s traditional church visit and walkabout to meet wellwishers amid concern over rising Covid-19 cases.
Instead, she will remain at Windsor Castle in what sources said was a “precautionary” decision.
Members of the Royal family will visit her in Windsor over the festive period, but they are unlikely to appear in public in anything equivalent to the annual Sandringham walk to church.
The Royal family had hoped to make a return to their Norfolk base for the festive season, as they have done each year since 1988, until the coronavirus pandemic struck.
But Buckingham Palace has confirmed they will no longer be making the trip.Advertisement
A source said: “Her Majesty has decided to celebrate Christmas at Windsor and will not travel to Sandringham.
“The decision was a personal one after careful consideration and reflects a precautionary approach.
“There will be family visiting Windsor over the Christmas period and all appropriate guidelines will be followed.”
The Queen has already been compelled to cancel her annual Christmas lunch, first moving it from Buckingham Palace to Windsor and then calling it off entirely.
She had been determined to go ahead with Sandringham plans, hoping to spend time with her family, while royal watchers had been looking forward to seeing the Queen, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren on their walk to church.
The Sandringham visit is an important part of the Royal calendar for the Queen. She usually stays at the estate until February 6, the anniversary of her father’s death and Accession Day.
The Duke of Edinburgh spent much of his time post-retirement at Wood Farm on the Sandringham Estate.
The Queen and her aides had been particularly conscious of the need to keep crowds under control amid the highly contagious new variant, keeping an eye on government advice before coming to a reluctant decision on Monday.
While she had hoped to carry on with her annual plans, she had been determined not to feel defeated by the virus but is mindful of setting a good example.
Members of her family have promised to spend Christmas with her one way or another, and will not leave her on her own.
Staff are already prepared to work in a quasi-bubble system to ensure the Queen, who is 95, and has recently been unwell, is kept safe.
There are rigorous testing procedures in place, with all those planning to be involved in royal Christmas plans for business or pleasure deeply mindful of their potential exposure to the virus.
A source said: “I think in the end Her Majesty just felt that it would be too difficult – not just for the Royals but also the staff – to make Sandringham happen.
“It’s a decision that hasn’t been taken likely.”
During the Sixties, when the Queen’s children were young, the royals often spent Christmas at Windsor Castle.
But in 1988, they transferred to Sandringham when Windsor was being rewired, enjoying it so much they opted to return to continue the tradition ever since.
The Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have not confirmed where they will spend Christmas, or whether they will be visiting Her Majesty.
A spokesman for Clarence House and spokeswoman for Kensington Palace said they would not be giving a running commentary on whether the most senior members of the Royal family would see their mother and grandmother during her first Christmas as a widow.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex and their two children live near to Windsor Castle, as does Prince Andrew.