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King Charles and Queen Camilla attend church in snowy Balmoral after major break with royal tradition

The monarch and his wife left Sandringham shortly after New Year


King Charles and Queen Camilla in Wales in 2019© Getty
Diane Shipley
Senior Online Writer
January 14, 2024
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King Charles and Queen Camilla were photographed heading to church at Crathie Kirk close to Balmoral on Sunday as their time in Scotland continues. The monarch and his wife will no doubt have needed to wrap up warm for their outing, as a light smattering of snow could be seen on the ground ahead of their car, which was driven by the King. The pair appeared to be in good spirits despite the cold, however, as they chatted and smiled in the photos. 

WATCH: Why Balmoral is so special to the royal family

Their trip to Scotland marks a major break from royal tradition, as Charles' mother, Queen Elizabeth II, always stayed at Sandringham from just before Christmas until early February, when she marked the anniversary of her father's death. Like the late Queen, the royal couple spent the festive season in Norfolk, but are now expected to spend the next few weeks in their Birkhall home on the Balmoral estate, which is one of their favourite residences. 

Charles and Camilla driving to Crathie Kirk church in Balmoral© Getty
There was snow on the ground in Scotland

They spent much of the pandemic lockdowns at Birkhall, as well as their honeymoon in 2005, and also retired there following Queen Elizabeth II's London funeral. Charles inherited Birkhall from his grandmother when she died in 2002, and often spends summers there, having described the residence as "a unique haven of cosiness and character" in the past. However, the monarch is continuing to carry out royal duties during his stay, and he and Camilla extended a kind message ahead of the accession of King Frederik X on Sunday. 

Balmoral Castle opens to the public later this month
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In a message shared by Buckingham Palace, the couple sent their "very best wishes" to Denmark's new king and queen, whilst also paying tribute to Frederik's mother, Queen Margrethe II - Europe's longest-reigning living monarch. 

In his letter, Charles wrote: "My wife joins me in writing to convey our very best wishes on the day of your accession to the throne of the Kingdom of Denmark. I look forward to working with you on ensuring that the enduring bond between our countries, and our families, remains strong, and to working together with you on issues which matter so much for our countries and the wider world." 

King Charles III and Queen Camilla arrive at Crathie Kirk, near Balmoral, for a Sunday church service.© Getty
King Charles and Queen Camilla arriving for the church service on Sunday

He continued: "I pay tribute to the many years of service of your mother, Her Majesty Queen Magrethe II, and remember fondly the frequent visits between our countries, including our visit to Copenhagen and Elsinore in 2012. I was delighted that Your Majesties were able to attend our coronation last year and I much look forward to future opportunities to celebrate the close connection that unites our countries and our families." 

King Charles III and Queen Camilla leaving Crathie Kirk, near Balmoral, in their car© Getty
The royals were in good spirits as they left the church

The Danish royal palace has confirmed that Margrethe will still be known as Her Majesty Queen Margrethe. Her abdication in her New Year's address came as a complete surprise for many. Announcing her decision to step down, she said in her address: "In February this year I underwent extensive back surgery. It went well, thanks to the skilled healthcare staff who took care of me. Of course, the operation also gave rise to thinking about the future - whether the time had come to leave the responsibility to the next generation…" 

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