Queen Elizabeth's Usual Christmas Plans at Sandringham Called Off as She Remains at Windsor
Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas plans have finally been revealed.
After careful consideration, the monarch, 94, and her husband, Prince Philip, 99, will celebrate the holiday season at Windsor Castle, where they have been isolating amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Having considered all the appropriate advice, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have decided that this year they will spend Christmas quietly in Windsor,” a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said on Tuesday.
A royal source tells PEOPLE, “They are fortunate to spend Christmas with their family every year, but they understand that their family will have competing demands over the Christmas period and are content to have a quiet festive season this year."
"Like everyone, their hope is that normality will return in 2021," the source adds. The Queen and Philip may still see some members of their family, "but they understand that they have competing demands."
Under new COVID-19 guidelines in the U.K., households can create a “bubble” of two other family groups over five days of looser restrictions lasting from Dec. 23 to Dec. 27.
The Queen traditionally spends the holiday season at her Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, where the rest of the royal family typically gathers for festive celebrations, including their annual walk to church.
"Christmas is something the Queen has always done with enormous, genuine family style, and is facing not doing so sadly," royal biographer Robert Lacey, author of Battle of Brothers, recently told PEOPLE. But "she is accepting of that."
Like many families, the Queen had been waiting to see what kind of family events would be possible once the U.K. government announced updated guidelines amid the current lockdown in England, which ends Dec. 2. She and her staff have already canceled the annual sparkling reception for diplomats and embassy staff who are usually entertained at Buckingham Palace in early December. The holiday party for her extended family at the palace later in the month has also been called off.
As for plans for the rest of the royal family, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will host their first American Christmas — following their first Thanksgiving in the U.S. — in Montecito, California, with Meghan's mom, Doria Ragland. Prince William and Kate Middleton have yet to reveal how they will spend the holiday. In past years, they have alternated between celebrating with the Queen in Norfolk and with Kate’s family in Bucklebury.
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will be at their country home Highgrove House in Gloucestershire on Christmas Day. They are expecting to visit the Queen and Philip at Windsor at some point during the holiday period, a palace source tells PEOPLE. Camilla, 73, will also visit with her son Tom and daughter Laura and their families over the Christmas holiday.
There will be a lot of attention on the monarch's annual address to the U.K. and the Commonwealth on Christmas Day, as she sums up a difficult year. The Queen records it in the weeks leading up to the holidays and it is broadcast at 3 p.m. on Dec. 25 after most people have had their lunch of roast turkey and Christmas pudding.