LONDON -- It will be a traditional Christmas weekend for Queen Elizabeth II's extended family, which now includes the former Kate Middleton, with the quiet holiday break to be followed by a year's worth of festivities to mark the queen's 60th year on the throne.
Most of the senior royals, including Prince William and his wife, now formally known as the Duchess of Cambridge, will be dispatched across the globe to help the aging monarch celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in grand style.
Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, are planning to mark the event with a series of tours throughout England to culminate with a celebration in London in early June that will include an unprecedented pageant on the River Thames with up to 1000 boats taking part.
In a carefully choreographed scenario, the flotilla will be led by the queen aboard the Royal Barge.
"They're hoping the Diamond Jubilee will be as successful as the Golden Jubilee in 2002," said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. "The media then thought the public wasn't interested, but by the big weekend there were 1 million people in the streets celebrating. I think that will happen again."
He said the queen was surprised by the outpouring of affection in 2002.
"Even after 60 years she is very self-effacing, and she's always amazed when people turn out to celebrate her achievements," he said. "You'd think by now she'd know how loved she is."
The Diamond Jubilee will mean extra overseas travel for many royals: Prince Charles and his wife Camilla will jet off to Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea; William and Kate will represent the queen in Malaysia, Singapore, the Solomon Islands and the tiny island of Tuvalu; while Prince Harry is being sent to the Caribbean to tour Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas.
The queen and Philip plan a series of trips throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland from late March to mid-July. She is then expected to help open the Olympic Games in July before beginning her summer holiday.
With so many public events planned, it is not surprising that most of the Christmas festivities will be held in private at Sandringham, the queen's sprawling estate in rural Norfolk.
Palace officials said Friday that the royals plan to attend a Christmas service at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the estate grounds. This gives well-wishers a chance to see the royals briefly, and also provides photographers a chance to snap pictures of the queen -- and Kate.
The family traditionally exchanges gifts at Sandringham on Christmas Eve.
After the church service, the royals usually walk on the grounds, have a gala lunch, and gather to watch the queen's prerecorded television broadcast, a tradition that began with a radio address by King George V in 1932.