Though the royals will be deviating from their tradition of spending Christmas together at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, two branches of the family had an accidental moment of togetherness over the weekend—but their Sunday trip to see a light display on the estate might have violated the country’s pandemic restrictions. According to the Daily Mail, Prince William, Kate Middleton, and their three children ran into Prince Edward, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and their two children, and the group of nine walked an outdoor path together. Norfolk is currently under a Tier Two order, limiting outdoor gatherings to six people, including children.
“They were clearly breaking COVID rules, in my opinion, because there were nine of them from two separate households. They were obviously all having a fun evening out. You could tell that the royal youngsters were having a great time,” an onlooker told the Mail. “But I couldn’t help thinking that it was one rule for them and another for the rest of us. It was really quite blatant.”
Queen Elizabeth is spending Christmas at Windsor Castle, but the Sandringham staff decided to go ahead with Luminate, an annual light display which is open to the public. A palace source told the newspaper that the families had inadvertently purchased tickets to see Luminate in the same time slot, but did not meet up intentionally, and attempted to keep their distance. “As anyone with young children will know, there were moments on the 90-minute walk where it was difficult to keep the two family groups apart, particularly at bottlenecks on the trail,” the source said in response to pictures that showed the families walking closely.
According to the Mail, William and Kate have been staying at Anmer Hall, their Norfolk country home on the Sandringham estate, for about 10 days. The news outlet added that new restrictions on movement in London prompted them to leave Kensington Palace and also led them to cancel their plans to spend Christmas with Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, at their Berkshire home. People reports that William and Kate have already exchanged holiday presents with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
At first, Sophie and Edward were reportedly planning to visit the queen for Christmas, but on Sunday, the Daily Express reported that new restrictions in Windsor caused them to change their plans. Because the couple’s home, Bagshot Park in Surrey, is currently under a Tier 4 order that began on Saturday at midnight, which restricts travel and overnight stays, it’s not clear whether or not they were staying on the Sandringham estate.
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, have traveled to their country home, Highgrove, in Gloucestershire, where the pair carried out engagements last week. At first, Charles had hoped to visit the queen shortly after Christmas, but changed his plans after COVID restrictions changed. Princess Anne, her children Zara Tindall and Peter Phillips, and their families are reportedly spending the holiday at Gatcombe Park, the Gloucestershire estate where all three have homes.
Despite the pandemic, Camilla did find a way to continue one of her favorite holiday traditions. Last week, she led a virtual tree-trimming ceremony with families from Helen and Douglas House, a children’s hospice that has been one of her patronages since 2007. “I really miss having you all here. It’s not the same without you,” she said on the video call. “A very happy Christmas to you all, and let’s hope for a better new year.”
More Great Stories From Vanity Fair
— Inside the Always Online, All-Consuming World of Twin Flames Universe
— Rudy Giuliani’s Daughter, Caroline, on How to Accept That Trump Lost
— Carl Lentz, Ranin Karim, and Hillsong’s Unfurling Scandal
— Billie Eilish Shares How She Spent the Pandemic in Latest Time Capsule
— The Queen Says Goodbye to Her Beloved Dorgi, Vulcan
— Barack Obama on His Book, the Election, and What Actually Makes America Great
— How We Unmasked the Hollywood Con Queen Suspect
— From the Archive: Her Most Loyal Subjects, a History of the Queen’s Kennels
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.