After weeks of speculation, it’s been confirmed that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle won’t be spending Christmas with the royal family this year.
Instead, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and baby Archie of course, will be spending the festive season with Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland in the US.
A palace spokesman confirmed in a statement on Wednesday evening that the couple were “looking forward to extended family time towards the end of this month”.
“Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, Their Royal Highnesses will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the Duchess' mother Doria Ragland,” the statement read.
“This decision is in line with precedent set previously by other members of the Royal Family, and has the support of Her Majesty The Queen.”
That precedent being referred was set by William and Kate and their Christmases with the Middletons.
The confirmation came after it was reported the Sussexes would take a well earned six-week break from royal life, with Hello! magazine adding the US portion of their holiday, which is said to kick off on Thanksgiving, may extend over the silly season and into the New Year.
“They need some time away to recharge and decide their plans for next year,” a royal source told The Sun at the time.
Buckingham Palace: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are looking forward to extended family time towards the end of this month. Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, [the couple] will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the Duchess’ mother Doria."— Omid Scobie (@scobie) November 13, 2019
From a spokesperson to the Sussexes pic.twitter.com/IfhtKpZzFs— Victoria Murphy (@byQueenVic) November 13, 2019
Expert says Harry and Meghan’s decision is ‘worrying and telling’
Of course, the confirmation of the pair’s decision to ditch the long-standing Christmas tradition had royal experts and commentators discussing the choice, with one even saying the decision was ‘telling and worrying’.
Phil Dampier, author of the book Royally Suited: Harry and Meghan In Their Own Words, said if they had a big family Christmas lined up one could understand the decision.
“But of course Meghan is estranged from everyone in her family apart from her mother, who they will probably see during their six-week break,” he told the MailOnline.
“So if they just don't want to be with the Queen and the rest of the royals it is very telling and worrying.
“Maybe they will have time to reflect on their problems in the coming weeks and hopefully realise that thinking of themselves as victims and outsiders is not helping anyone.”
Long-standing royal Christmas tradition
It has been a long-standing tradition for the Royal Family to spend the festive period at Sandringham and attend the annual Christmas Day service at Church of St Mary Magdalene.
Except for 2012, when he was in Afghanistan, the Duke of Sussex has always spent Christmas at the Queen’s Norfolk home.
In 2017, Meghan spent her first Christmas with the Royal Family, at Sandringham, joining the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children on Christmas Day.
The Christmas celebrations saw the Queen deviate from tradition when she invited the former actress to join the royals.
And last year, Meghan celebrated her first Christmas at Sandringham as the Duchess of Sussex.
Despite the concerted effort to normalise the move in the palace’s announcement, Harry and Meghan’s absence will no doubt reignite whispers of strained relationships within the family, as it comes just weeks after Harry finally addressed rumours of a reported rift with his brother Prince William.
The Duke of Sussex opened up in a documentary about him and his wife’s recent tour of Africa, claiming him and William are ‘certainly on different paths’ and admitting, ‘Inevitably stuff happens’.
With additional reporting by Marie Claire Dorking.
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