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Queen attends low-key Christmas service before 3D speech

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry absent from service but annual televised speech breaks new ground

The Queen has joined the rest of the royals for the Christmas Day church service at Sandringham after recovering from a cold.

She missed Sunday's service at her Norfolk home as she was "getting over the tail end of a cold", Buckingham Palace said. But on Christmas Day she appeared cheerful as she arrived for the 11am service at St Mary Magdalene church on the Sandringham estate.

Wearing a turquoise coat dress and matching hat, she was wished a merry Christmas by about 1,000 wellwishers.

The Christmas celebrations are somewhat muted for the royal family, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry absent from the traditional Sandringham festivities.

Prince William and his pregnant wife are instead spending the day with the Middletons, while Harry is serving as an Apache pilot in Afghanistan. Traditionally the whole family would gather at the Queen's estate home over the festive period.

Later, the Queen's annual Christmas speech payed tribute to a landmark year for the country, taking in the widespread diamond jubilee festivities and the Olympics and Paralympics. And for the first time, it will be broadcast in 3D.

The duchess's return to the bosom of her family comes after a testing few weeks for Kate, who was forced to announce her pregnancy earlier than planned when she was admitted to King Edward VII's hospital in London following a bout of severe morning sickness.

According to Kate's sister, Pippa, Christmas at the Middleton family home will be "blissfully calm". But it is likely to include some high jinks, she revealed, instigated by their father, Michael.

Writing in the Spectator magazine, Pippa said: "He buys a new costume each year and typically gets a bit carried away – a couple of Christmases ago he appeared in an inflatable sumo outfit."

The duke and duchess are expected to follow their stay in Bucklebury with a visit to Sandringham at some point over the festive period.

In Afghanistan Prince Harry, like thousands of other servicemen, will celebrate Christmas with troops.

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