Despite murmurings of a possible reconciliation at Sandringham, it appears that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will not be joining the royal family for their annual Christmas celebrations in Norfolk after all.
The late Queen Elizabeth II hosted every Christmas at the royal estate since 1998, with her son King Charles III expected to continue the same tradition in his first official year as monarch since the coronation in May.
Last month, it was reported the couple would not turn down an invite to spend Christmas at Sandringham if they were asked, amid rumours that a reunion between Harry and Charles could be on the horizon.
The speculation was prompted by details of a “warm” phone conversation between the father and son, after they spoke for the first time in six months on the occasion of Charles’s 75th birthday.
Both Harry and Meghan wished Charles a “happy birthday” during the phone call on 14 November, during which they also played the king a video of his two grandchildren. However, as of 19 November, the couple had reportedly not received any invites to Sandringham.
Instead, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will reportedly spend the holidays with their children – Prince Archie, four, and Princess Lilibet, two – at their mansion in Montecito, California, where the family currently resides.
The Sussexes will be joined by Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland and their friends, according to a report by Us Weekly. “They’ll be cooking, playing games and swapping gifts,” one source told the publication. “They have a tough time trying not to spoil the kids too much.”
The last time Harry and Meghan joined the royal family for their celebrations was in 2018, when they were famously photographed alongside the Prince and Princess of Wales. This led to the two royal couples being dubbed the “Fab Four”.
Over the years, however, Harry and Meghan’s relationship with the royal family has become increasingly strained.
Since resigning as senior members of “the Firm”, the couple has publicly spoken about the difficulties they faced within the palace, including during a bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey.
This was followed by the release of their two-part Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, and the release of Harry’s revealing memoir Spare in January this year.
Now, royal reporter Omid Scobie’s book Endgame, which reignited the palace race row that first erupted during Harry and Meghan’s conversation with Winfrey, appears to have widened the rift between the two sides of the family.
During the interview, Meghan sensationally claimed that there had been concerns within the palace about how dark Prince Archie’s skin might be before she gave birth to him.
A rogue Dutch translation of Endgame identified King Charles and Princess Kate as the senior members who allegedly speculated about the young prince’s appearance. The error led to thousands of copies of the book being pulped in the Netherlands, before it was reprinted without the names.
In response, the palace is believed to be considering all available options, including taking legal action.
While they will not fly back to the UK this festive season, the Sussexes will likely keep to the “Windsor family tradition” of opening their presents on Christmas Eve.
Members of the royal family exchange gifts with each other at tea time on 24 December, instead of waiting until Christmas morning. This continues a German tradition introduced in the mid-19th century by Queen Victoria’s Bavarian-born husband King Albert.
In his memoir Spare, Harry described how his family spent their first Christmas Eve since relocating to the US in 2020.
He wrote: “We took Archie to find a Christmas tree. A pop-up lot in Santa Barbara. We bought one of the biggest spruces they had. We brought it home, set it up in the living room. Magnificent. We stood back, admiring, counting our blessings. New home. Healthy boy.
“It was Christmas Eve. We FaceTimed with several friends, including a few in Britain. We watched Archie running around the tree. And we opened presents. Keeping to the Windsor family tradition.”
The Sussexes are also creating some of their own, new festive traditions, since stepping down as senior members of the royal family and relocating to the US.
“We’re creating new [traditions] now that our little ones are growing up,” Meghan told E! News recently. “And we’re enjoying every moment of it.”
One of Meghan’s own favourite Christmas rituals is trimming and decorating the tree with Archie and Lilibet, she added.
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