Queen and duke begin festive break at Sandringham

The Queen and Prince Philip set off from Buckingham Palace in a helicopter Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Royal Standard was lowered at Buckingham Palace as the Queen's helicopter took off

The Queen and Prince Philip have arrived at Sandringham after postponing their trip due to heavy colds, a royal spokesman has said.

They flew from Buckingham Palace to the Norfolk estate by helicopter to start their Christmas break.

The royal couple had been due to take a train on Wednesday to King's Lynn en route to Sandringham.

But they remained in London due to their illnesses.

On Tuesday, the Queen, 90, and the Duke of Edinburgh, 95, hosted a festive lunch for the Royal Family - a tradition they carry out before travelling to their private estate each year.

Prince William was seen arriving with the Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and three-year-old Prince George.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Queen celebrated her official 90th birthday in June with Prince Philip by her side

The Queen's annual Christmas Day message, which is recorded in advance, is due to be broadcast on 25 December at 15:00 GMT on BBC One and BBC Radio 4.

The palace announced on Tuesday that the Queen would be stepping down as the patron of 25 national organisations.

Her patronages will be passed on to other royals, although she will still be patron of hundreds of other organisations.

The royal ritual

By Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent

When it comes to ill-health, the royals and their advisers don't disseminate too much detail.

The head of state and her husband, they argue, are entitled to the same privacy as any other individual.

The heavy colds that delayed their departure from Buckingham Palace had clearly improved enough to allow the 90-year-old monarch and the 95-year-old duke to make the journey.

They can now take part in the royal ritual, which was started by Queen Victoria, of opening presents on Christmas Eve.

The nature of their recovery will be in evidence the next day when the dedicated tend to gather at Sandringham for a glimpse of the Windsors going to church.

The Queen is normally driven there on Christmas Day.

In the past, Prince Philip - even when recovering from serious ailments - has favoured walking the short distance from his wife's private Norfolk home.

Read more from Peter Hunt.

Earlier Prince Charles delivered BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day. He spoke out about the danger of religious persecution.

Warning against a repeat of "the horrors of the past", the Prince of Wales said the rise of populist groups "aggressive" to minority faiths had "deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days" of the 1930s.

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