The Queen broke with festive tradition yesterday (Sunday) when she left church at Sandringham without collecting any flowers from the children waiting outside.
Police told onlookers that the monarch decided to return home immediately after the service because she received so many bouquets on Christmas Day that she was late for lunch with her family.
The Princess Royal, with a helping hand from the Countess of Wessex, accepted some of the flowers in place of her mother. But some of the children were disappointed that they had not been able to give them to the Queen.
A large crowd of about 5,000 people, perhaps hoping to catch a glimpse of five-month-old Prince George, cheered the Royal family as they attended the customary Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk.
Although the baby prince did not attend, as many as 100 children brought flowers and other gifts for the Queen. So many girls and boys wanted to give their presents that the Duchess of Cambridge had to help out by collecting bouquets from a second line of youngsters.
However, after yesterday's service on a frosty morning, the Queen simply waved to the well-wishers before driving off in her maroon Bentley.
One parent, who asked not to be named, said: "We drove more than 50 miles with our five-year-old daughter so she could present a small bouquet to the Queen.
"She had practised how to curtsy and it would have been a big moment for her so it was very disappointing to be told that the Queen was not receiving any flowers.
"This policeman just told us that it was not happening today because the Queen was late for her family lunch on Christmas Day due to so many children giving her flowers."
An onlooker added: "I have been coming to church services at Sandringham for 20 years and this is the first time I can remember that the Queen has not accepted flowers."
Normally children are allowed under a rope outside the 13th-century church and line up by the steps so they can hand their bouquets to the Queen. The flowers are handed on to a police officer, who puts them in her car.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Zara Phillips were absent from the church yesterday. The 92-year-old Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Royal, accompanied by her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, led the way from the main house on foot.
The Prince of Wales walked behind with the Earl and Countess of Wessex with their 10-year-old daughter, Lady Louise Windsor. The Queen travelled alone to the church by car.
It is believed that the Duchess of Cornwall left Sandringham after Christmas Day to spend time with other members of her family. The service, led by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, included prayers for people living in Syria, those serving in Afghanistan and the family of Capt Richard Holloway, the Royal Engineer who was killed in action.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said: "Her Majesty is always grateful whenever people wish to present flowers, and she accepted many flowers on Christmas Day. However, she does not accept them in person on every occasion."