Prince Andrew Joins The Royals At Sandringham Christmas Day Church Service

The Duke of York has stepped back from royal duties in the wake of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

Prince Andrew made a fleeting appearance to join his family for the royal traditional Christmas day church service at the Queen’s Sandringham Estate.

The Prince, who was stripped of his royal duties after he gave a disastrous television interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, made a low-key visit, arriving with his brother Prince Charles ahead of the rest of the family.

The brothers walked side-by-side as they headed into St Mary Magdalene Church for the 9am service, ahead of the traditional 11am service.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of York arriving to attend a church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk
The Prince of Wales and the Duke of York arriving to attend a church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk
PA Wire/PA Images

Hundreds of well-wishers joined a queue to catch a glimpse of members of the royal family ahead of the 11am service.

Prince William’s children Prince George and Princess Charlotte joined the service for the first time, though his youngest child Prince Louis was not present.

George, aged six, and four-year-old Charlotte walked the short distance from Sandringham House to St Mary Magdalene Church hand in hand with their parents the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The Prince of Wales with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte
The Prince of Wales with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte
PA Wire/PA Images

The 93-year-old Queen, wearing a red coat and hat, arrived at the church in a maroon Bentley with the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Duke of Edinburgh, 98, who was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve, was at Sandringham but did not attend church.

He had spent four nights at the King Edward VII Hospital in London to receive treatment for a “pre-existing condition”.

Philip, who retired from public duties in 2017, did not attend last year’s church service either despite being in good health at the time.

The Queen attended, though Prince Philip, who was discharged from hospital on Christmas eve, did not
The Queen attended, though Prince Philip, who was discharged from hospital on Christmas eve, did not
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Andrew slipped out of the church and returned to Sandringham House before the 11am service to spend time with the Duke of Edinburgh, a source said, which was the Duke of York’s personal decision.

His attempt to explain his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein backfired and he was heavily criticised for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein’s victims and remorse over his friendship with the disgraced financier.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were also absent this year, instead opting to spend seven-month-old Archie’s first Christmas with the duchess’s mother, Doria Ragland, in Canada.

Others attending the main morning service included Princess Beatrice and her fiance, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

Princess Charlotte accepts a gift
Princess Charlotte accepts a gift
KGC-821/STAR MAX/IPx

The Queen walked unaided down the church steps after the service and left in her chauffeured car with Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

The Duchess of Cambridge, holding her daughter’s hand, curtseyed to the Queen from the steps as the car departed.

As they made the return journey after the service was over, the Cambridges spoke to well-wishers who were waiting to catch a glimpse of the royal family.

Gemma Clark, 39, who had travelled from Long Sutton in Lincolnshire with her family, gave Charlotte an inflatable flamingo and said she seemed pleased with the gift.

“She said ‘Thank you’,” said Clark, who was in a wheelchair.

The flamingo was called Felicity, Clark said, adding: “But Charlotte may call it whatever she likes now.”

“It was a birthday present,” she explained. “My sister bought me it for my birthday and I truthfully didn’t like it but we have adventures with her.”

She said George and Charlotte were “brilliant”.

“It made my day,” she added. “I’ve never seen the royal family, ever.

“This is my first time at Sandringham and I would love to do it again.”

Back at the house, the family traditionally indulge in turkey, reared at Sandringham, before settling down to watch TV, including the Queen’s Christmas Speech.