While he volunteered with a helicopter search and rescue crew, she celebrated with her family

By Simon Perry
Updated December 26, 2010 08:15 AM
Credit: Matt Dunham/AP

Prince William and Kate Middleton are set for the most exciting year of their lives – but they had to spend Christmas apart.

The lovebirds, both 28, were 270 miles apart Christmas Day as William had volunteered to work a shift with his helicopter search and rescue crew in North Wales, while Kate spent the day with her parents in Berkshire, England.

But they won’t be apart for long: The two are expected to spend New Year’s Eve together.

William is off work now until after the New Year celebrations and is heading for Sandringham, the royal family’s retreat in Norfolk, eastern England. It is not known whether Kate will immediately join him, but if she does, it would mark the first time she has stayed there while the Queen and extended family have been in residence.

It has been a momentous Christmas holiday period for the couple.

Kate joined William at one of his official royal duties just days after she had been on the guest list at a private luncheon hosted by Queen Elizabeth.

Elsewhere, the Queen – in distinctive fur hat – led members of her family to church on Christmas morning, taking a bouquet of flowers from a young well wisher.

There was no mention of her grandson’s upcoming wedding in her annual televised address – or anything about her other grandchild, Zara Phillips’s engagement.

Meanwhile, the man who will officiate the couple’s April 29 wedding, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said there was “cause for celebration” that any couple should want to “embark on the adventure of Christian marriage.”

In his Christmas Day message, Dr. Rowan Williams, said, “As the prince and his fiancee get ready for their new step into solidarity together, they will have plenty of inspiration around,more than you might sometimes guess from the chatter of our culture,” the BBC reports.