Royals

The Queen's kind Christmas gesture towards Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

The Royals relax traditions for Meghan and her mum.

Christmas with the in-laws can be stressful – especially when they happen to be the British royal family – but for Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, this holiday season should be quite peaceful.

Even though this is her first year as a fully-fledged royal after her wedding to Prince Harry in May, the former actress knows what to expect from the very traditional festivities the Queen hosts at Sandringham over Christmas as she got to break protocol and attend last year (newcomers usually have to be married before they're invited).

And not only can the pregnant duchess relax a little because she knows what's in store and how to behave, but this year she'll have her beloved mum, Doria Ragland, by her side.

It is highly unusual for Her Majesty to allow any of her family's in-laws to attend the royal celebrations. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge's family have gone to church with the royals on Christmas Day before, but they've never been invited to partake in the customary turkey meal at Sandringham.

However, this year the Queen (92) has made an exception for Doria (62) because she would otherwise be on her own.

Meghan's mum Doria will join royals including Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, the Queen and Prince Philip at Sandringham.
Meghan's mum Doria will join royals including Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry, the Queen and Prince Philip at Sandringham.

Royal sources say the monarch was very impressed by Doria, a divorced mum-of-one, when they met earlier this year.

"The Queen knows that Meghan's family situation is complicated, and that the easiest way for Meghan and Harry to be together and with Doria, which is what they want, is for them all to join her at Sandringham," says the insider.

"It is not the norm, but then things seem to have changed quite a lot recently."

Her Majesty seems to have relaxed a lot of her rules when it comes to Meghan (37), and has been sympathetic towards the American since she and Harry 34) first got together in 2016.

"The Queen knows royal life is very new and different to Meghan and has done what she can to smooth her transition from actress to duchess," says a royal commentator. "They seem to have developed a strong bond very quickly."

The Queen's willingness to welcome Meghan into the family fold, and her support of her and her mum, must be making things much easier for Meghan, who is still only seven months into her new way of life as a royal.

"It makes family events – whether they are official engagements in the public eye or informal private occasions – a lot less stressful," says the palace insider.

This year, when it comes to Christmas at Sandringham, Meghan will be able to get into the festive swing of things, knowing what to expect.

The holiday celebrations will kick off – literally – on Christmas Eve when Harry and his brother Prince William (36) join a football team from the Sandringham estate for a match against a team of local villagers.

Meghan will no doubt be on the sidelines, calling out encouragement to Harry for that event. After the match, the whole family will gather for an afternoon tea, including scones and dainty jam sandwiches, in the White Drawing Room at Sandringham.

The youngest members of the family, including Prince George (5) and Princess Charlotte (3), will be tasked with adding the final decorations to the Christmas tree, a Norfolk spruce felled on the estate.

Presents are laid out on a trestle table in the Red Drawing Room, and opened at 6pm.

There's always a joke theme to the gifts, with Harry once giving the Queen a shower cap emblazoned with the words, Ain't Life a B**!

Prince George enjoys the most festive of treats, a humble candy cane.
Prince George enjoys the most festive of treats, a humble candy cane.

The day ends with a black-tie dinner that is rather formal, although the Queen is known to read out corny jokes from the Christmas crackers.

It's an early start to Christmas Day with the first of two church services at St Mary Magdalene on the estate at 9am. The family walks to the second service at 11am and afterwards heads back to Sandringham for a traditional Christmas dinner with turkey and all the trimmings.

Everyone gathers to watch the Queen's speech on TV – there's likely to be mention this year of Meghan and Harry's wedding and the fact that their first child is due next year – and following a light buffet dinner, the evening is spent playing charades or watching a movie projected onto a screen in the ballroom.

The Queen apparently does excellent impressions of the heads of state she's met over the years.

"Although events of the day are quite regimented, everyone is able to relax and just be a family enjoying time together at Christmas," says the insider.

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