The Queen 94, and Prince Philip, 99, traditionally spend the festive season with close family at Sandringham, in Norfolk. But this year they will forgo the festivities and remain at Windsor Castle, where they have been isolating with a ‘bubble’ of staff since October.
It is understood the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will not take advantage of the relaxed Covid restrictions to form a Christmas bubble with other households.
It means the couple face spending Christmas Day without any of their four children for the first time since 1949, when the then Princess Elizabeth left a one-year-old Charles in the UK so she could be with Prince Philip in Malta.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will spend Christmas at Highgrove, in Gloucestershire, although they expect to see the Queen and Prince Philip at Windsor at some point over the festive season. Camilla will also spend time with her family.
In Tier 2 regions, like Windsor, up to six people from different households are able to mix outdoors. This means the Queen and Prince Philip could meet with family members for horse riding or walks in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will be spending Christmas at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace has confirmed. Pictured, the Queen at Windsor Castle last month
The Queen, 94, wrapped up warm as she took to the saddle of her favourite black pony earlier today in Windsor alongside Head Groom Terry Pendry
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are likely to spend Christmas either at Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, or at the Middleton family home in Berkshire.
Prince Edward, the Countess of Wessex and their children live at Bagshot Park, Surrey, while Princess Anne and her family live at Gatcombe Park, in Gloucestershire. Prince Andrew is the only one of the Queen’s four children who lives in Windsor.
The Queen won’t attend a church service on Christmas Day in order to prevent crowds gathering but is expected to worship privately in Windsor Castle’s private chapel.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said this afternoon: ‘Having considered all the appropriate advice, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor.’
Prince Philip and the Queen have spent the year with a specially screened household dubbed ‘HMS Bubble’.
The Queen and the Duke had a summer holiday at Balmoral in August, but spent less than half their normal 10 weeks in Scotland due to coronavirus restrictions that limited visits from family and friends.
Prince Philip then wanted to return to Wood Farm and, in an unusual move, the Queen decided to join him before returning to Windsor last month.
When she returned to Windsor alone at the start of October, the plan was for her to commute between Norfolk, Windsor and Buckingham Palace where she could have official engagements.
Seemingly, however, that has proved unworkable, and her only Royal visit has been a trip to the Porton Down military research laboratory near Salisbury.
The Queen has, however, found time for horse riding and has been spotted out in Windsor in recent days.
For the last 33 years, the Queen 94, has spent the festive season at Sandringham, where she hosts close family members and enjoys traditions such as the Boxing Day shoot. Pictured, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on Christmas Day in 2017
Earlier today the Queen donned a cosy tan coloured coat and head scarf as she rode out on her favourite black horse alongside her head groom Terry Pendry.
Throughout the pandemic, head groom Terry has ensured the royal’s ponies are ready and that he keeps two metres from his boss during their rides.
All protective disinfectant measures are taken, particularly for the horse’s saddle and bridle.
A devoted team of 22 staff have been working throughout this year to provide a protective shield around Elizabeth and Prince Philip, which Windsor Castle colleagues are calling ‘HMS Bubble’.
It includes her favourite page Paul Whybrew – with whom she is so comfortable that they often watch TV together, and who co-starred in her James Bond skit for the London Olympics Opening Ceremony – as well as chefs, cleaners and officials.
Led by master of the household Tony Johnstone-Burt and the queen’s private secretary, Edward Young, the team have willingly agreed to live away from their own families for the duration of the lockdown.
It means they can serve the monarch and her husband without needing protective equipment such as gloves and masks, or to abide by social-distancing guidelines.
How Princess Elizabeth travelled to Malta to spend Christmas with Prince Philip in 1949 – WITHOUT one-year-old Prince Charles
The Queen’s love affair with the island began in 1949 when Prince Philip was made First Lieutenant on HMS Chequers. Later that year, Elizabeth’s father, King George VI, suggested she joined her husband on Malta.
After celebrating Prince Charles’ first birthday in 1949, the then Princess Elizabeth travelled to Malta to spend the holidays with Prince Philip (pictured together in November 1949)
So after celebrating Prince Charles’s first birthday, the Princess flew to the island arriving on her second wedding anniversary, November 20.
It was truly a different world for the Princess. She handled cash for the first time and even enjoyed the novelty of visiting second-rate hairdressing salons.
‘They were magical days of endless picnics, sunbathing and waterskiing,’ says Lady Pamela in a rare interview. ‘Prince Philip was stunning. He really was. A sort of Greek god. And she was beautiful with that marvellous complexion.
‘The Princess really loved Malta because she was able to lead a normal life, wander through the town and do some shopping, and whenever the [British Navy] fleet came in we would rush to the Barrakka [the public gardens on the sea front] to see it – which was always a fantastic sight.’
Lady Pamela, 86, is the younger daughter of Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last viceroy of India, who ruled it for George VI, our last king-emperor. Mountbatten was Prince Philip’s cousin.
His daughter, Lady Pamela, was the Queen’s bridesmaid and lady-in-waiting and is uniquely placed to recall just how much the Royal couple loved their Mediterranean island life. ‘It was the only place that she was able to live the life of a naval officer’s wife, just like all the other wives,’ Lady Pamela explains.
‘It was wonderful for her and it’s why they have such a nostalgia for Malta.’
For the Duke, newly reunited with his young wife during leave, the only fly in the ointment was the ever-present Bobo, who had been Elizabeth’s nurse since childhood, and is described by Lady Pamela as ‘terrifying’.
Prince Charles spent his second Christmas with his grandparents at Sandringham House while the Queen and Prince Philip were in Malta
‘Prince Philip had quite a battle because Bobo used to sit at the end of the bath when the Princess was having a bath and have a gossip.
‘I think Philip had quite a battle to remove Bobo from the edge of the bath and make it possible for him to sit there.’
While his parents were in Malta for Christmas, the Prince of Wales was left with his grandparents King George VI and the Queen Mother at their Sandringham Home.
In a letter from the Queen Mother to the then Princess Elizabeth date marked 21 December 1949, she penned: ‘I went to see Charles yesterday & he seemed in very good form. I think that his teeth are worrying him a bit, but otherwise he is very well.’