Which royals will be in the Queen’s Christmas bubble?

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The Queen, © PA Archive/PA Images
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By Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter

The Queen’s royal Christmas will be a very different affair this year.

Traditionally, the royal family descend en masse to the Sandringham estate for a festive stay with the monarch.

But, like the rest of those in the UK, the Queen and her relatives will have to carefully chose who to have in their Christmas bubble, and where to stay.

Under a relaxation of the coronavirus rules, three households can mix from December 23rd to 27th, but the bubble must be exclusive over the five-day period, meaning people cannot shift from one group to another.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, however, have a large family of four children and eight grandchildren, who are all nearly grown up, along with eight great-grandchildren.

Last year, those joining the monarch in Norfolk included the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, the Duke of York, Princess Beatrice and her then fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

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The royal family attending church on Christmas Day in 2003 (Toby Melville/PA)

It is understood the decision on where and with whom the Queen will spend the Christmas period will not be made for another few weeks.

The royals will also have to decide whether it is wise to visit the 94-year-old monarch and 99-year-old Philip.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned families they must make a “personal judgment” about the risks of coronavirus to vulnerable loved ones.

Harry and Meghan with the royals on Christmas Day in 2017 (Joe Giddens/PA)

Options could include the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall joining the Queen as one third of her bubble.

But this would mean Camilla would be unable to see her beloved children and grandchildren.

The Queen may invite her youngest son Edward, with his wife Sophie and their children Lady Louise Windsor, 16, and 12-year-old Viscount Severn, who form one household.

The Queen and Sophie leaving after attending a morning church service in December 2019 (Joe Giddens/PA)

The Princess Royal might attend instead or the Duke of York, but they have grown up children, with whom they might form a bubble.

William and Kate with George, Charlotte and Louis could spend Christmas with the Middleton family in Berkshire.

But Carole and Michael Middleton have two other children as well as Kate – Pippa Matthews and James Middleton, meaning one of the three offspring would not be allowed to gather for the festive celebrations.

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Michael and Carole Middleton, James and Pippa Matthews and James Middleton (Steve Parsons/PA)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are grieving the loss of their second child after a miscarriage, are thousands of miles away, living in the US.

The restrictions also mean the Queen will not be able to host her traditional pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace when the wider royal family usually gathers each year for a get-together a week or so before Christmas.

Rules would permit the monarch and Philip to move to Sandringham during the five-day period.

But they could decide to stay at Windsor Castle, where they have spent much of lockdown being looked after by a reduced number of staff dubbed HMS Bubble.

If the Queen remains at Windsor, it would be the first time in more than 30 years that she has spent Christmas at the historic Berkshire castle.

During the 1960s, when the Queen’s children were young, many Christmases were celebrated at Windsor.

The Queen and other members of the royal family leave St George’s Chapel on Christmas Day in 1978 (PA)

But since 1988, when the castle was being rewired, royal Christmases returned to Sandringham.

Wherever the Queen is, she can be expected to attend church on Christmas Day.

The monarch is head of the Church of England and has a deep Christian faith.

Places of worship can open in England in all areas from December 2nd, and people can also meet their Christmas bubble there between December 23rd and 27th.

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It is unlikely the well-wishers who gather to see the royals each December 25th will be able to do so, in a bid to avoid crowds and the spread of coronavirus.

After a morning visit to church, the family traditionally indulge in turkey, reared at Sandringham, before settling down to the Queen’s Christmas Speech.

The Queen’s address is recorded in advance – but it will be the first time a Christmas broadcast has been carried out amid such unprecedented restrictions and unusual times.

The Queen delivering her televised address on the pandemic in April (Jacob King/PA)

The monarch will take any changes in her stride – she has already delivered two rare addresses to the nation during the pandemic.

Her first televised speech during lockdown in April took place at Windsor in a large room to allow sufficient distance between the Queen and the sole cameraman, who was dressed in PPE and was the only other person in the room.

All other technical staff were in another room connected by speakers.

The Queen is a consummate professional at public speaking and is known for recording her December 25th address in just one take.

The speech is written by the Queen herself and is one of the rare occasions when she does not turn to the Government for advice and is able to voice her own views.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the family’s plans for this year.

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