Holiday Majesty

12.25.11

The British Royal Family’s Christmas

The royals made their holiday trek to church with Kate Middleton for the first time, while Prince Phillip recovers from a health scare. Tom Sykes on why this year, it’s all about family.

Kate Middleton confirmed her status as the Royal Family’s new superstar when a record crowd of 3,000 gathered today to see the royals make their traditional Christmas day outing to Sandringham church.

It was the first time that Kate has joined the royal party, which, along with the Queen and all the senior royals except Prince Philip--who is still in hospital after suffering a heart attack on Friday night--included William, Harry, and England rugby player Mike Tindall, who is married to the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips.

Veteran royal-watcher Mary Relph, 77, who lives near Sandringham, told the Daily Telegraph, “I have never seen queues like this on Christmas Day before, I have never seen this amount of people here since Diana was alive. People are obviously coming to see Kate Middleton.”

Kate did not disappoint her fans, dressed in an elegant maroon hat by British milliner Jane Corbett and a matching coat by Katherine Hooker, though but the designer has not been confirmed. Corbett has been creating bespoke hats for more than 15 years and was trained by Rose Cory, the late Queen Mother’s milliner. She designed the pale blue hat that Kate’s mother Carole Middleton wore to the Royal wedding in April.

Though Queen Elizabeth II still made the holiday trek, notable by his absence was the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip usually walks the few hundred yards from the house to the church at the head of the family group. Although the royal party did not stop and talk to the gathered members of the public, many of whom called out questions about Prince philip's state of health, on the way into the church, they did do so on the way out. The Daily Mail reported that Prince Charles told Carmilla Fitt, 71, from Dover, that his father’s health was "coming on." He added: "He is very well and in very good spirits. He is very determined. Asked by other wellwishers about his grandfather, the Duke of Cambridge said he was "very well, thank you—getting much better."

During the service, rector of Sandringham the Rev Jonathan Riviere asked the congregation to join him in a prayer for the Duke of Edinburgh’s health.

He said: “We pray for the Queen and the Royal Family, especially today we pray for Prince Philip and his continued recovery.”

The Duke is reportedly recovering well, and was said to be “in good spirits” by the palace this morning, but it is doubtful he will be able to lead the Boxing Day shoot. Members of the Royal Family will visit Philip at Papworth Hospital near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, after lunch today, which will be, as always, a turkey reared at Sandringham.

After lunch the Royals will, like much of the rest of the nation, huddle round the television to watch the Queen’s Speech—although the Queen herself leaves the room.

This year, the message is said to focus on the importance of family.