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Prince Andrew keeps low profile as royal family celebrates Christmas with the queen

Royals celebrate Christmas after rough year

London —Prince George and Princess Charlotte attended their first Christmas church service with the queen on Wednesday as Prince Andrew, who has "stepped back" from public duties amid controversy over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, kept a low profile.

Andrew accompanied his brother, Prince Charles, to an earlier service. Last month, he withdrew from public life after a disastrous BBC interview about his relationship with Epstein, the convicted sex offender who died in jail in August.

A large crowd gathered outside St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham on Wednesday to greet the queen and other members of the royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, who were attending for the first time. 

The Duke And Duchess of Cambridge Release Their Christmas Card
Photo issued on December 25, 2019 by Kensington Palace – taken by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge – shows Prince William kissing Prince Louis as they pose next to Princess Charlotte and Prince George in Norfolk earlier this year. The Duchess of Cambridge

Andrew and Charles, who arrived ahead of the others, used a different entrance.

A "bumpy" year

The queen attended church ahead of the television broadcast of her prerecorded Christmas Day message.

"The challenges many people face today may be different to those once faced by my generation, but I have been struck by how new generations have brought a similar sense of purpose to issues such as protecting our environment and our climate," she said in the address.

"The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy," the queen went on. "But small steps can make a world of difference."

British politics has become increasingly polarized because of divisions caused by Brexit.

The royal family has also had personal struggles this year, including the controversy surrounding Prince Andrew.

"As we all look forward to the start of a new decade," the queen concluded, "it's worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change."

Prince Phillip, the queen's 98-year-old husband who was released from the hospital on Christmas Eve, did not attend Wednesday's service. Neither did Prince Harry and wife Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are in Canada with their son, Archie.

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