Selasa, 25 Desember 2007

British royals celebrate Christmas in the countryside (AFP)

LONDON (AFP) - The royal family were greeted by hundreds of umbrella-carrying well-wishers in the British countryside Tuesday as they went to church on Christmas Day.

The royals always spend Christmas at Sandringham, Queen Elizabeth IIs private country estate in Norfolk, eastern England, and worship at the local St. Mary Magdalene Church.

The queen arrives by car, while the rest of the family strolls to the church, which dates back to the 16th century.

Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, two of the queens eight grandchildren, escaped the rain Tuesday by joining her in the car.

Sophie, Countess of Wessex, the wife of Queen Elizabeths youngest child Prince Edward, usually accompanies the monarch for the drive but she remained at Sandringham with her eight-day-old son James, Viscount Severn.

Asked if mother and baby were well by some among the 600-strong group of onlookers who waited in the rain to see the royals, Edward said: "Absolutely, thank you."

Princes William and Harry, both army officers, did not attend the service as they are on regimental duty.

Following the 45-minute service, the queen collected bouquets of flowers from children outside the church. Wearing a beige overcoat and carrying a transparent umbrella, the sovereign smiled as she chatted with well-wishers.

Her nephew Viscount David Linleys young children helped her collect the flowers.

Back at Sandringham House, the royal family watched Queen Elizabeths traditional 3:00 pm (1500 GMT) Christmas Day message to Britain and the Commonwealth.

However, the queen sometimes watches the broadcast alone to monitor her own performance.

Her second son Prince Andrew told ITV television: "Sometimes the queen watches it and sometimes sits in another room thinking: Has it come across in the right way? but its always been a part of the family tradition."

The royals traditionally open their presents on Christmas Eve night -- a German tradition dating back to queen Victoria and her husband prince Albert.

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