Prince Philip leads the royals for Christmas Eve service at Sandringham

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Joe Roberts for Metro.co.uk

Prince Philip leads the royals for Christmas Eve service at Sandringham
The Duke of Edinburgh arrives at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA)

Prince Philip led the way as the royals kicked off their Christmas together with a traditional church service in Sandringham.

The retired royal appeared in high spirits today as he walked to St Mary Magdalene Church, with Prince Andrew by his side.

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The 96-year-old Duke of Edinburgh made the crowds laugh when he spotted mother-of-two Heather Hudgins holding her three-month-old daughter Abby.

Making a joke about the child’s decorative green bow, he quipped: ‘Is it a baby? I thought it was a bunch of flowers.’

He was shortly followed by the Queen, dressed in an ice blue outfit with matching hat and black gloves, who walked down the church steps after the service with the Rev Jonathan Riverie.

Prince Philip leads the royals for Christmas Eve service at Sandringham
The royals spend Christmas together at Sandringham (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA)
Prince Philip leads the royals for Christmas Eve service at Sandringham
The Queen arrives with Sophie Wessex (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA)
Prince Philip leads the royals for Christmas Eve service at Sandringham
Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie leave the church this morning (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA)
Prince Philip leads the royals for Christmas Eve service at Sandringham
Queen Elizabeth carries daffodils given by a young girl (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA)

A crowd of around 350 people saw Philip briskly walk 400 yards to the church, while the Queen arrived in her maroon Bentley with Sophie Wessex.

Wearing his trademark brown overcoat, Philip led a procession of Royals on the walk from Sandringham House as he chatted to Prince Andrew.

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Andrew’s daughters Beatrice and Eugenie followed behind with Prince Edward and his daughter Lady Louise, Princess Anne and her husband Sir Tim Laurence, and Peter Phillips and wife Autumn.

The service included traditional carols such as Once in Royal David’s City, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away in a Manger, When Shepherds Watch Their Flocks by Night and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Prince Philip leads the royals for Christmas Eve service at Sandringham
Princess Anne walks to the church with her husband Sir Timothy Laurence (Picture: Joe Giddens/PA)
Prince Philip leads the royals for Christmas Eve service at Sandringham
Prince Edward, Lady Louise Windsor and Lady Sarah Chatto follow Princess Anne (Picture: REX)

Sophie Wessex paused to collect flowers from a small girl and handed them to the Queen before they got back into the car.

Some members of the crowd expressed disappointment that they did not get to see Prince Harry’s new fiancée Meghan Markle.

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Meghan and Harry, along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte are expected to walk to Sandringham church tomorrow morning for the Christmas Day service.

Royal watcher Alan Mowton, 58, who has been in the crowd at Sandringham church services every Christmas for 40 years said: ‘I was surprised to see Philip walking.

‘He went in the car with the Queen last year when they were both recovering from heavy colds. But this year he looks more spritely than ever.’

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