THE ROYAL DIVORCE: Sandringham refusal leads to speculation on Diana's plans

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The Princess of Wales's announcement earlier this week that she would not be spending Christmas at Sandringham means she will not see her sons on Christmas Day, although it is her "turn" to have them.

Her private office would not say yesterday what she will do instead, describing it as a "purely private matter".

Reports that she may spend it skiing in Vail, Colorado, has led to a tabloid frenzy, with editors telling photographers they can "name their price" for pictures of the Princess with Christopher Whalley, the latest man with whom they have linked her.

Although she is said to consider it "a massive wrench" not to be with her sons, the Princess was said to have been dreading Christmas. A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said all the Queen's immediate family would spend Christmas with her. This is likely to include the Queen Mother, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, Lord and Lady Linley, Lady Sarah Chatto, the Princess Royal, her husband Tim Laurence, and her children Peter and Zara, Prince Charles and Princes William and Harry, the Duke of York and Prince Edward. The Duchess of York will also be at Sandringham, although she and Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie will stay at Wood Farm, joining the Queen for tea on Christmas Day.

Christmas at Sandringham has a strict routine. As the Windsors follow the German tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve, they are laid out in the ballroom and opened at exactly 5pm. On Christmas Day, breakfast is served at 8.30am, followed by the service in the parish church. Lunch is at 1.15pm, and shortly before 3pm the Queen leads the way to the saloon so everyone can watch her Christmas message on television.