The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will spend Christmas just as a couple at Windsor Castle after deciding to enjoy the festive period “quietly”.
The head of state and Philip normally host their large family at Sandringham in Norfolk over the holidays and are watched by hundreds as they attend church on Christmas Day.
But in a reflection of the Christmas celebration choices being made by families across the country, the couple have said they will remain at Windsor Castle where they have spent much of the lockdown.
The Queen and her consort, who are both in their 90s, are expected to see some members of their family briefly in accordance with guidelines but Christmas celebrations are likely to involve just the couple.
It is understood the Queen will not be attending church on Christmas Day to avoid large crowds of well-wishers gathering.
A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said: “Having considered all the appropriate advice, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor.”
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will spend Christmas Day at Highgrove, their Gloucestershire home, but are expected to see the Queen and Philip at Windsor over the holidays, with Camilla also visiting her family.
It is not known where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will celebrate the festive period but they may, as they have in the past, spend it with Kate’s parents who live in the same county as the Queen in the Berkshire village of Bucklebury.
William could visit his grandparents with his family and remain socially distanced.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will remain in the US.
Under a relaxation of the coronavirus rules, three households can mix from December 23 to 27, but the bubble must be exclusive over the five-day period, meaning people cannot shift from one group to another.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned families they must make a “personal judgment” about the risks of coronavirus to vulnerable loved ones.
The restrictions also mean the Queen will not be able to host her traditional pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace when the wider royal family usually gathers each year for a get-together a week or so before Christmas.
The Queen and duke are fortunate to have enjoyed large Christmas gatherings in the past but they are also aware family members will have competing demands on their time over the festive period and are content to enjoy the period quietly.
Last year, those joining the monarch in Norfolk included Charles and Camilla, William and Kate, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, the Duke of York, Princess Beatrice and her then fiance Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, the Princess Royal and the Earl and Countess of Wessex.
The couple have spent much of the lockdown at Windsor Castle being looked after by a reduced number of staff dubbed HMS Bubble.
During the 1960s, when the Queen’s children were young, many Christmases were celebrated at Windsor.
But since 1988, when the castle was being rewired, royal Christmases returned to Sandringham.