Queen Elizabeth is summoning her usual stoicism as she faces a very different Christmas season.
The Queen, 94, typically hosts a series of holiday traditions that have become highly anticipated by royal fans on Christmas Day and the days leading up to it. But with her family split this year — Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and their son Archie are more than 5,000 miles away in California — and the coronavirus pandemic still affecting how people can gather, it will be very different.
"Christmas is something the Queen has always done with enormous, genuine family style, and is facing not doing so sadly," royal biographer Robert Lacey, author of Battle of Brothers, says in this week's issue. But "she is accepting of that."
Like many families, the Queen is waiting to see what kind of family events will be possible when the U.K. government announces updated guidelines amid the current lockdown in England. But she and her staff have already canceled the annual sparkling reception for diplomats and embassy staffs who are usually entertained at Buckingham Palace in early December. The holiday party for her extended family at the palace later in the month has also been called off.
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The details on what the royal family will do and where they will be based for Christmas have yet to be confirmed as they await government guidelines. The Queen, 94, who is currently living in Windsor Castle with her husband Prince Philip, 99, hasn't decided whether to stay in Windsor or head to her Sandringham estate in Norfolk for the traditional Christmas and New Year's holiday. If she heads to Sandringham, Prince William and Kate Middleton may only be two miles away at their country home, Anmer Hall.
Harry and Meghan will host their first American Christmas — following their first Thanksgiving in the U.S. — in Montecito, California, with Meghan's mom, Doria Ragland.
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And it seems very unlikely there will be any public gathering allowed to watch the royals up close if they head to church on Christmas morning at Sandringham.
Last year, Prince George and Princess Charlotte made their official debuts in the royal family's Christmas walk to church. George and Charlotte accompanied their parents as they waved to the Queen and greeted well-wishers who lined the road as the royal family made their annual appearance outside the church.
There will be a lot of attention on the monarch's annual address to the U.K. and the Commonwealth on Christmas Day, as she sums up a difficult year. The Queen records it in the weeks leading up to the holidays and it is broadcast at 3 p.m. on Dec. 25 after most people have had their lunch of roast turkey and Christmas pudding.
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