Queen attends Sandringham church Christmas service

The Queen and members of the Royal family at church in Sandringham

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The Queen has attended a Christmas Day church service, after recovering from a cold which had prevented her from attending a service on Sunday.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, who are staying at the royal estate in Sandringham, Norfolk, attended St Mary Magdalene Church.

The Queen was handed flowers by children after the service.

Her Christmas speech, to be broadcast at 15:00 GMT, will pay tribute to the UK's Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

The address will be broadcast in 3D for the first time.

Following tradition, the Queen made the short journey to the church from Sandringham House in a Bentley with princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

The Duke of Edinburgh, 91, who was forced to miss the service last year because of a heart problem, walked the few hundred yards from the house to the church, accompanied by the Duke of York and the Earl and the Countess of Wessex.

Wearing a turquoise coat and matching hat, the Queen was greeted by about 1,000 well-wishers.

At the scene

After the church service, the Queen dressed in a turquoise overcoat and matching hat, immediately started to meet the 70 or so children who were waiting in a queue to meet her.

Many were holding flowers and dressed in their best.

Helped by her granddaughter Eugenie, the Queen received the flowers and spoke to each of the children in turn.

Katie Barnes said it had been her "one dream" to meet the Queen. After curtseying, Katie told the Queen her middle name is Elizabeth - to which the Queen is said to have told her "it's a very lovely name".

Royal fans

Sheila Clark said she had arrived at the estate at about 06:30 GMT to ensure that she could get a good view of the royals.

"It means such a lot to me... to come here, share Christmas Day with other people that I know, enjoy the service here and see the Royal Family," said Ms Clark, who travelled from her Glasgow home and makes the journey every year.

Karim Gorham, who is at Sandringham with her daughter Madison, said she wanted to see the Queen and give her flowers because she had not seen the monarch during the Jubilee celebrations she attended earlier in the year.

The Queen traditionally spends the festive period with her family at Sandringham, but this year has not been joined by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are with the duchess's family in Bucklebury, Berkshire.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Prince William and Catherine are expecting their first child, after the duchess was admitted to hospital with an acute bout of morning sickness.

Prince Harry is absent from the celebrations, as he is currently serving as an Apache helicopter pilot with the Army Air Corps in Afghanistan.

In her Christmas message, the Queen praises the ''training and teamwork'' of Olympic and Paralympic athletes

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said the Queen's self-penned Christmas speech, broadcast to the UK and Commonwealth, will focus on "service, achievement and the spirit of togetherness".

She will hail the "splendid summer of sport" in the pre-recorded address and will highlight how the sportsmen and women allowed spectators to feel part of the "excitement and drama".

The Queen will say: "As London hosted a splendid summer of sport, all those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes."

The Queen had her own starring role in the London Olympics, declaring them officially open after appearing to parachute into the stadium with James Bond - played by current 007 Daniel Craig.

3D technology

Behind-the-scenes footage of the Christmas message, made on 7 December, has been released showing the Queen meeting senior staff from Sky News, which produced the broadcast this year.

In other footage she wears 3D glasses as she watches part of the broadcast, which will be transmitted on TV and radio.

Her use of 3D technology comes 80 years after George V first broadcast a Christmas speech on the radio and started the 25 December tradition.

It has been an eventful year for the royal family, with the Queen celebrating her Diamond Jubilee in June, marked with celebrations in the UK and Commonwealth.

She also became the first British monarch to reach a 65th wedding anniversary.

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