The Christmas Day scenes of the Royal family at Sandringham might have felt familiar, but amidst the melee there were a couple of firsts.
Not just Prince George and Princess Charlotte charming the crowd on their first royal walkabout, but my mum, her terrier puppy Beano and me, making our debuts as the kind of people who give up their Christmas morning to watch the Queen walk to church.
三级成人视频While I’ve stood in some exceptionally British queues in my time – Wimbledon, the post office, my local polling station the other week – I’m delighted to report that the queue for Royal fanatics on Christmas Day at Sandringham is the most gloriously British of them all.
There were sniffer spaniels wearing collars of gold tinsel, a pink-cheeked policeman crying ‘Happy Christmas’ in the manner of a Dickens character, children in Father Christmas hats, thermoses of hot tea and a chap from East Yorkshire dispensing Jelly Babies to those around him.
三级成人视频Faced with such joyful enthusiasm, the Cambridge children seemed slightly reticent on their way into church. Prince George - making a rare appearance in long trousers - held tight to Prince William’s hand, while Princess Charlotte was sandwiched between dad and mum.
But on their way out, the children broke off and got stuck in, already pros at handshaking and exchanging pleasantries at just six and four years old.
Princess Charlotte accepted some roses and inspected a doll - though this was easily overshadowed by the gift of a bright pink inflatable flamingo called Felicity from a well-wisher in a wheel-chair who hugged both children.
三级成人视频Their star turns were just reward for those at the front of the crowd, some of whom had queued at the gates from 1am.
Despite being tipped off about the hardcore’s moonlight arrival, I hadn’t fancied such an early start - have you ever spent any time outside on a frosty December night in Norfolk? - so we arrived in the Sandringham car park just after 9am assuming we’d be alright.
三级成人视频This was our first mistake since the queue for security alone was already hundreds deep, snaking along the red-brick wall of the Royal estate.
三级成人视频"We often get a nice day. We had 4,000 people last year but with this weather we’ll have more," said an authoritative local called Shelly, standing behind us.
T三级成人视频his was the first of 939 comments I heard about the weather - a crisp but perfectly clear day. Shelly is a keen monarchist who queued here last Christmas too. "The disappointing thing," she added, "is that the Queen is so short you probably won’t see her when she gets out the car."
Ah well. Mum and I were not dissuaded. My feet were already numb in my boots but I had KitKats in my bag for sustenance. We surged forward in the security queue towards dozens of police officers frisking us and through a gate before hurrying to a spot along the path leading to the church.
Around us were cheerful German, Australian and French voices. Some were carrying bouquets of flowers, hopeful that they might be able to hand them over to one of the family. One child draped a drawing of a reindeer up across the rope cordon.
We stood patiently. There was more discussion of the sunshine. The mood was akin to that of a village fete as various people around us cheerfully debated who they were most excited about seeing.
Prince George and Princess Charlotte were the main draw; but a chap who’s currently motoring around Britain in his mobile home joked that he wanted a selfie with the Queen. "I just love Catherine," sighed a lady in a purple knitted hat. This was a respectful crowd. No ‘Kates’ here. It was the ‘Cambridges’, and not much chat about the absent ‘Sussexes.’
And then, just before 11, the gates from the house clanked open and we could see a small phalanx of people walking towards us. Up went the selfie sticks. From a distance, the Royals seemed to be marching in tandem, sticking closely together as if for protection from the thousands of expectant faces and, for a brief moment, it felt as if we had come to the zoo. Poor things, having to march out and face us all like a troop of dancing monkeys.
First came the Wessexes, then Princess Beatrice in an emerald hairband with her beaming fiancé Edo Mapelli Mozzi. After them, George and Charlotte with their parents and Prince Charles, or Grandpa Wales, as his grandchildren are said to call him. There was Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank. Princess Anne was my favourite, striding along in a snappy purple outfit as determinedly as if she was off to the Boxing Day sales.
Just outside the church, meanwhile, a gargantuan maroon Bentley had pulled up to eject the Queen, in festive red, and Camilla, another who’d come dressed as a purple Quality Street.
No Prince Andrew, whispered one lady standing near me, but nobody else seemed to mind much. A lady called Lucy from West Sussex was especially chuffed with her photo of three generations – Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George.
三级成人视频We craned our necks to see them all go into church - and as the service was piped through the speakers erected outside the church, some, dutifully, sang along to God Save The Queen.
三级成人视频As we trailed back to the carpark, I overheard from my fellow fanatics ‘Weren’t they adorable?’ and ‘And isn’t it lucky the sunshine held?’
Truly, the most British of crowds.