ROYAL PICTURE SPECIAL: Thousands flock to Sandringham for Christmas Day service
The Queen and other members of the Royal Family have attended the traditional Christmas Day church service at Sandringham today.
Thousands headed to the West Norfolk estate to catch a glimpse of the royal party at the St Mary Magdalene Church, with some arriving up to nine hours before the 11am service.
For the first time, the party included the American actress Meghan Markle, whose engagement to Prince Harry was announced last month.
And the crowds were not disappointed as Ms Markle demonstrated she had mastered the art of the curtsy before joining her fiance to speak to delighted well-wishers after the service.
Ms Markle walked arm-in-arm with Harry as they made the short journey from Sandringham House to the church with other royals, including the 96-year-old Duke of Edinburgh.
She seemed at ease, smiling and chatting as they walked alongside William and Kate, who is pregnant with her third child.
The Queen, who was too unwell to attend last year’s service after being struck down with a cold, arrived separately with the Duchess of Cornwall in a royal Bentley and joined the group from the house, which also included the Prince of Wales.
Among the wellwishers outside the church was Judith Wallis, who was sitting in a wheelchair and is staying at the neighbouring Park House Hotel on her first Christmas Day visit to Sandringham.
She said Harry recognised her teddy bear called Maureen, which is a mascot for Armed Forces charity SSAFA, and her hat, which bore the Gurkha regiment emblem.
She said Ms Markle spoke to them too.
“She said lots of things,” said Ms Wallis, who is in her 70s and from Chesterfield. “She was very, very lovely.”
Park House manager Tess Gilder, who was with Ms Wallis, said of Ms Markle: “She was just so natural, so lovely.”
She added: “I think they just wished us a Happy Christmas and were interested in whether we had been before.”
Emily Randall, 31, was first in the queue to get into the area by the church, with her boyfriend Jamie Mackay, 42.
She said they set out from Chichester in Sussex before 10pm on Christmas Eve and arrived at Sandringham at about 2am.
“We thought it would be really busy,” she said.
“We looked online. We were the first ones here, camping in the dark for two hours.”