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The Queen and Prince Philip leave for Sandringham on board helicopter

Gemma Strong

One day later than scheduled, the Queen and Prince Philip have left Buckingham Palace for the start of their official Christmas holiday. The royals departed London on Thursday afternoon on board a private helicopter, bound for the monarch's Sandringham estate in Norfolk.

The Queen, 90, and Prince Philip, 95, were forced to alter their original travel plans after they both came down with "heavy colds".  The couple had been due to arrive at King's Cross train station on Wednesday morning to make their annual journey to King's Lynn. But 30 minutes before their scheduled arrival, it was confirmed that their arrangements had been changed because of ill health.

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The Queen and Prince Philip left Buckingham Palace on Thursday for the start of their Christmas holiday

A palace spokesperson confirmed to HELLO! Online: "The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have heavy colds, and so have decided not to travel to Sandringham today."

The Queen has taken the same 10.44 am train from London to Norfolk for several years now. She always travels on the day after her Christmas party at Buckingham Palace for the royal family, and the unexpected cancellation sparked both concern and speculation for the couple's health.

Earlier this week, it was announced that the Queen will be stepping down as patron of 25 national charities to lighten her workload.

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The royal couple were forced to alter their travel arrangements after coming down with "heavy colds"

In a statement, Buckingham Palace said: "Her Majesty is currently Patron of more than 600 organisations and has enjoyed a close and active association with a great number of them throughout her reign. Her Majesty will continue to serve as Patron to hundreds of charities and institutions but will now share this work with her family. Many of the organisations listed below already have other Members of the Royal Family as Vice-Patrons or Presidents which will ensure a smooth transition."

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