Queen cancels traditional family Christmas lunch

The Queen has cancelled her traditional pre-Christmas family party next week.

A Buckingham Palace source confirmed the decision to call off the royal gathering, which comes as Covid cases spike with the surge in the Omicron variant.

It is understood the decision was a precaution with the source suggesting it could put too many people’s Christmas arrangements at risk if it went ahead.

Plans were reportedly fully in place at Windsor Castle for next Tuesday’s Christmas lunch, which the 95-year-old monarch hosts each year for her extended family.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Christmas lunch in 2018
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arriving for the Christmas lunch in 2018 (Aaron Chown/PA)

Last year’s gathering was also scrapped because of the Covid-19 crisis.

Most years, the Queen invites her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to join her at Buckingham Palace before she departs for her annual Christmas stay at Sandringham.

The palace is undergoing major renovation works at present.

The pre-Christmas celebration gives the head of state a chance to catch up with relatives who are unable to travel to Norfolk for Christmas Day.

The wider family is also usually invited, including the Queen’s cousins the Gloucesters, the Duke of Kent and the Michaels of Kent.

This Christmas is the Queen’s first since the death of her husband of 73 years, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen and Philip spent Christmas Day together at Windsor in 2020, without the rest of the family, after spending most of the year being cared for by a reduced number of staff in what was dubbed HMS Bubble.

She has only been carrying out light duties since October 20 when concerns for her health were heightened after royal doctors ordered her to rest and she spent a night in hospital undergoing tests.

Also on Thursday, Downing Street said it was likely the Prime Minister’s audiences with the Queen would move to being virtual.

Asked whether Boris Johnson would continue to meet the Queen in person, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “That will be a matter for the royal family.

“I’m not aware of them not being… I think they will probably be moved virtually but that’ll be a matter for the palace.”