The Royal family has reassured people the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh are alive after conspiracy theories began to trend online, sparked by a fake news report.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were recuperating from a bout of illness.

"The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh continue to recover from their heavy colds," he told The Sun.

It comes after the couple opted to fly to Sandringham for Christmas rather than take the train and the Queen did not appear at a family church service on Christmas Day due to illness.

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Despite the relatively minor afflictions, the so-called "curse of 2016" led many Brits to jump to conclusions online after a string of deaths including George Michael, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds.

Earlier a fake BBC news account tweeted that Buckingham Palace announced the Queen had passed away under unknown circumstances.

That led to the hashtag #mediablackout with tongue-in-cheek claims there was a cover up at play.

The Queen turned 90 in 2016 and the Duke of Edinburgh turned 95.