The Sandringham Estate in Norfolk has been the Royal Family’s country retreat since it was purchased in 1862, and every year the Royal Family attends a church service on Christmas Day at the St Mary Magdalene Church.
This year was the first with King Charles III and the Queen Consort Camilla at the healm of the Royal Family, since the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September.
The service was attended by the Prince and Princess of Wales and their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis – in what was also the four-year-old’s first Christmas Day service – as well as the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke of York, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and Zara and Mike Tindell.
Following on from her trip to London earlier in the year for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, Horncastle’s resident royalist, Sharron Tonge, partner Steve Ward and her daughter Lily, 18, embarked on a 100-mile round trip on Christmas Day to see the new King and the Royal Family – setting off at 8am before anyone had even opened their presents!
Sharron said: “I really wanted to go and support our new King, I wasn’t sure if we’d go this year after The Queen died but I’m so glad we did.”
A good journey saw them arrive at Sandringham at 9.15am, with plenty of time before the 11am service so they managed to meet up with fellow royalist friends Kay and Darren Chambers and get a prime location near the press area by the front of the church.
Sharron noticed a much higher police presence than previous years:
She said: “It was fantastic, we were all given an Order of Service so we could follow what was happening and there were speakers outside so we could join in and we all sang God Save the King, it was incredible.”
Sharron and her party saw all of the working members of the Royal Family walk up the path from the estate to the church, and even saw young Prince Louis bend down to pick something up from the floor and put it in his pocket right next to them.
As she was hosting Christmas dinner this year, Sharron and her family had to leave halfway through the service, but Sharron said she plans to stay for the whole service next year and continue their Sandringham pilgrimage every year.
"It was very emotional – a different feel to previous years as it was the first one without Her Majesty The Queen but it felt right to be there and we’ll carry on the tradition,” she said.
Sharron is now making plans to travel down to London for King Charles’s coronation in May.