One can never be too careful when one is 90 years old and has a nasty cold.
Queen Elizabeth went to church yesterday near Sandringham, her Norfolk estate, a weekly ritual that had been interrupted at Christmas and New Year by what Buckingham Palace called a “heavy cold” that kept her and, initially, Prince Philip indoors.
It was the first time the queen had been seen in public since early December, and her reappearance, in her familiar brightly coloured coat and hat, led to discreet sighs of relief around Britain.
The Duke of Edinburgh, 95, accompanied her to St Mary Magdalene Church at Sandringham, about two hours northeast of London by train, and both seemed well as they walked back and forth from their Bentley.
Philip apparently recuperated more quickly. He turned up last Sunday.
The couple were accompanied by Prince William and Kate, who turns 35 today, and other members of the royal family.
Also there were Kate’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton; sister Pippa Middleton and her fiancé James Matthews; and brother James Middleton. William and Kate live at their country retreat, Anmer Hall, on the Sandringham estate.
The queen was applauded by well-wishers as she arrived at the church. She was dressed in a royal blue coat and matching hat. Even the blanket on her knees in the car was blue.
“Lovely to see you Ma’am!” shouted the Daily Mail. “Queen finally wins battle over heavy cold to attend church after a MONTH indoors.”
The queen, who is head of the Church of England, is as devoted to church as she is to duty and ritual. In nearly three decades she has almost never missed an important religious service where she is expected to appear.
The palace did not announce ahead of time that she would be attending yesterday.
The queen’s 65th anniversary as sovereign — she is Britain’s longest-reigning monarch — is next month. A vast majority of people in Britain and the Commonwealth have never known anyone else on the throne. She has rarely been ill, even after she became a senior citizen, so her non-appearance caused alarm.
William and his in-laws’ appearance comes after the family opted for a private Christmas at the Middleton home near Bucklebury in Berkshire.
The $NZ8.25m / $A7.9m mansion has long been a haven for William and Kate, who spent a number of weeks there soon after their son George, now 3, was born.
It was only the second time the couple have joined the Middletons for Christmas Day since they married in 2011 and the first since George and Charlotte were born.
William is already back at work as a rescue helicopter pilot. Last year he took a three-week holiday, but this year he returned to his duties on January 3 like most British workers.
Statistics compiled from the daily court circular show William attended 188 engagements last year. Kate attended 140.
The pair say they are committed to raising their children, but comparisons will be drawn with Charles and Diana who managed more engagements when Harry and William were children.
Kate is expected to mark her birthday privately with William and her children before her first public engagements of the year.
On Wednesday, the Duchess is dropping in on an Early Years Parenting Unit at the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families in north London to learn more about their work with families with children under five.
On the same day Kate and William will visit the Child Bereavement UK Centre in east London to mark its first anniversary.
Royal-watchers are waiting to see whether they expand their brood in 2017. Kate, who is one of three, is thought to be keen to have another child.
Pippa is preparing to marry Matthews, a hedge-fund manager, in the society wedding of the year at the church where the Middletons went on Christmas Day.