Prince William gave Charlotte and George a ‘dress rehearsal’ ahead Sandringham

The Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte attend the Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church

The Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte attend the Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church

The Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte attend the Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church

It may have been a ‘bumpy’ year for the Royal Family, but it ended on a smooth note, thanks to a four-year- old Princess.

Princess Charlotte garnered positive headlines after she charmed 2,000 wellwishers outside St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham on Christmas Day, diverting attention from scandal-hit Prince Andrew.

She gracefully accepted flowers, hugged a woman in a wheelchair, executed a perfect curtsy to her great-grandmother the Queen, and shook hands with the vicar.

While naturally confident and well-mannered, the performance of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge‘s daughter may have been partly due to a ‘dress rehearsal’ a few days earlier.

It is understood Prince William took Charlotte and brother George, six, to the 16th Century church before Christmas to familiarise them with its layout and explain about the wellwishers. 

In the event, the walkabout passed off better than anyone could have imagined, but it is a measure of the year’s turbulence that it was causing concern among Palace officials.

There were fears beforehand that if Prince Andrew were allowed to rub shoulders with the public – in this case some of the Queen’s most loyal subjects – there might be unpleasant scenes. 

Senior courtiers were concerned that the fallout from his friendship with paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, which caused him to retreat from public life, might result in him being heckled by the crowd if he attended the main 11am service.

Princess Charlotte garnered positive headlines after she charmed 2,000 wellwishers outside St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham on Christmas Day

Princess Charlotte garnered positive headlines after she charmed 2,000 wellwishers outside St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham on Christmas Day

Princess Charlotte garnered positive headlines after she charmed 2,000 wellwishers outside St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham on Christmas Day

Pictured: Princess Charlotte

Pictured: Princess Charlotte

Pictured: Gemma Clark from Lincolnshire hugs Princess Charlotte

Pictured: Gemma Clark from Lincolnshire hugs Princess Charlotte

Charlotte gracefully accepted flowers, hugged a woman in a wheelchair (right), executed a perfect curtsy to her great-grandmother the Queen, and shook hands with the vicar

Charles and Camilla arrived at Sandringham by helicopter, touching down on a secluded part of the 20,000-acre Norfolk estate at about 9am on Christmas Eve (stock image)

Charles and Camilla arrived at Sandringham by helicopter, touching down on a secluded part of the 20,000-acre Norfolk estate at about 9am on Christmas Eve (stock image)

Charles and Camilla arrived at Sandringham by helicopter, touching down on a secluded part of the 20,000-acre Norfolk estate at about 9am on Christmas Eve (stock image)

But to avoid church altogether would seem weak so, in what one source described as a ‘common-sense compromise’, it was decided he should attend an earlier private service with Prince Charles. 

So, with the potential pitfall deftly avoided, courtiers were delighted with how Charlotte wowed the crowds. ‘That was simply a happy bonus and it was a beautiful day,’ said a source.

Charles and Camilla arrived at Sandringham by helicopter, touching down on a secluded part of the 20,000-acre Norfolk estate at about 9am on Christmas Eve. 

And, after spending four nights at the King Edward VII Hospital in London for ‘observation and treatment in relation to a pre-existing condition’, Prince Philip was also flown in, arriving onboard a luxury Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.

Prince Harry and Meghan were notable absentees and missed the Queen’s pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace, described by Mike Tindall, the husband of the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, as ‘lovely’.

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