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Queen Elizabeth II Skips Christmas Service Due to Illness

Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip leave palace after delay due to 'heavy colds' 2:19

SANDRINGHAM, England — A heavy cold kept Queen Elizabeth II from attending the traditional Christmas morning church service near her Sandringham estate in rural Norfolk, England.

It is extremely rare for Elizabeth to miss the service, which is a cornerstone of the royal family's Christmas celebrations and brings the monarch into contact with local residents who gather outside for a glimpse of her.

Related: Britain's Queen and Prince Philip Sick With 'Heavy Colds'

"The Queen continues to recover from a heavy cold and will stay indoors to assist with her recovery," Buckingham Palace said. "Her Majesty will participate in the royal family Christmas celebrations during the day."

Those festivities usually include a gala lunch. In past years, the royal family would often go for extended walks in the countryside.

Elizabeth has been in generally good health and has maintained an active schedule in the last year despite traveling less often than in the past.

Queen Elizabeth Releases Christmas Remarks 6:35

Her husband, 95-year-old Prince Philip, has also cut back his public schedule and his charitable works. He was also suffering from a heavy cold earlier in the week, the palace said.

Philip did attend the Sunday morning Christmas service, waving to well-wishers on his way out of the church. As a concession to age and his cold, he drove to the church instead of walking.

Prince Harry spent time talking to local residents after the church and stopped to pet a dog.

There were no signs of other family members being ill. The flu season has hit many Britons hard in the last two weeks and colds and flus are spreading. A cold can be dangerous for people in their 90s, doctors warn.

Image: Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta 2015
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip, pictured in Malta in November 2015. TOBY MELVILLE / POOL / EPA

Earlier this week, the royal couple delayed their departure from London to Sandringham because of their colds but traveled one day later than expected, using a helicopter instead of a train.

The royal family received some sad news Saturday, when it was revealed that the queen's granddaughter, Zara Tindall, had suffered a miscarriage while expecting her second child with husband Mike Tindall.

The queen plans to use her pre-recorded Christmas Day message to praise British Olympic and Paralympic athletes and others who inspired her.

The message will be televised throughout Britain and much of the Commonwealth on Sunday afternoon.