family occasion: Royals in traditional church visit as Philip recovers in hospital

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THE Queen joined members of the Royal Family for the traditional Christmas Day service at Sandringham but did so, for what is believed to be the first time, without the Duke of Edinburgh who is recuperating after heart surgery.

And in a poignant annual address to the nation, the Queen celebrated the importance of family, describing the weddings of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Zara Phillips and rugby star Mike Tindall as her personal reminder of the value of loved ones.

She said: “The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together.”

Speaking from Buckingham Palace’s 1844 room, the Queen also acknowledged that the festive period would be tough for some.

“For many this Christmas will not be easy. With our Armed Forces deployed around the world, thousands of service families face Christmas without their loved ones at home,” she said.

“The bereaved and the lonely will find it especially hard. And, as we all know, the world is going through difficult times.”

The Queen also highlighted how natural disasters earlier in the year, including the earthquake in New Zealand, and floods in Australia, had brought out the best in people.

She said: “In this past year my family and I have been inspired by the courage and hope we have seen in so many ways in Britain, in the Commonwealth and around the world.”

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