Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ‘unlikely’ to join Royals for first Christmas without Queen Elizabeth

Tom Sykes

London: King Charles and Queen Camilla will host the royal Christmas at Sandringham this year, continuing the long tradition established by Queen Elizabeth II as part of a determined effort to emphasize continuity, despite the change of reign. However, Prince Harry and his family are unlikely to attend.

A friend of the new king and queen exclusively told The Royalist: “It will be very strange for the family to be at Sandringham without the queen at Christmas. However the past two years have been fairly strange because of COVID, so at this stage they are just hoping, like everyone else, that a big gathering can go ahead.”

Asked if Harry would attend, the friend, who has visited Sandringham over the festive period to participate in the estate’s famous pheasant and partridge shoots in previous years, said, “Obviously his sons have a standing invitation, but the reality is that no-one is expecting Harry and Meghan to fly over, given that his book is hanging over everything.”

Today, a source told the Mail on Sunday echoed that Harry and Meghan were “unlikely to attend.”

The friend told The Daily Beast they suspected that Prince Andrew would be encouraged to keep a “low profile” if he was invited, but that this was far from certain give his elder brother’s long-standing animosity towards Andrew, who he believes has inflicted serious harm on the monarchy by his involvement with Jeffrey Epstein.

Prince William and Kate are expected to be at Sandringham, the friend said. With William now heir to the throne, the days of being able to duck out of the duties of the official royal Christmas and slip off to Kate’s house are likely over for good.

A question mark hangs over the attendance of Camilla’s children, Tom and Laura. They are not believed to be close to William and, although they were invited to attend the queen’s funeral, did not have prominent roles. Tom has two children by his former wife Sara Buys, a fashion editor, and art dealer Laura and her husband Harry Lopes have three teenagers.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex arrive to attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate on December 25, 2018 in King’s Lynn, England.

A spokesperson for King Charles declined to comment on the guest list for Christmas, although a palace source did confirm to The Daily Beast that the traditions and customs established by Elizabeth and her predecessors would be continued by Charles.

These include presents being opened on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, a Teutonic custom named “Heiligabend Bescherung,” begun by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband (who also imported, with rather more success, the German habit of cutting off the top of a fir tree and bringing it into the house to be decorated).

However, part of the custom of opening presents on Christmas Eve was to allow the day itself to be kept clear for the performance of royal and religious duties. The queen often attended church twice on Christmas Day for example. And while food and wine is of course served, lunch was a relatively brief affair, which began at 1pm sharp and was finished by 2:45 to allow the queen to retreat to her study and watch her speech, broadcast annually by the BBC at 3 p.m. British time, in private.

Sandringham at Christmas is reputedly a rather serious day; it will be interesting to see if Charles and Camilla bring a more relaxed atmosphere to Christmas day itself, or maintain the same intense focus on duty and god. Princess Diana famously found the day claustrophobic, and would duck down to the kitchen to chat with the staff.

A friend told the Sunday Times: “He has spoken about it, and now, as it is coming closer to the present, he is particularly concerned about it. William does think it is damaging. The royal family know a lot of it is nonsense, but it is really harsh and hurtful.”

The latest season encompasses the breakdown of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marriage, but the subject is dealt with sensitively; indeed one episode ends with a fulsome on-screen postscript flattering the work of Charles’ Prince’s Trust charity.

But the royal dislike of it runs deep. Prince Philip was so “upset” by one storyline in The Crown he considered suing Netflix, the Sunday Times also reports.

The storyline that provoked his ire featured the death of his sister Princess Cecilie in the penultimate episode of the second series broadcast in 2017. The episode shows Philip and Charles’ experience of attending Gordonstoun boarding school in Scotland, and shows how Cecilie died in a plane crash. In The Crown she takes the journey as a result of Philip being punished because of an incident at Gordonstoun. In reality, her journey had nothing to do with the incident.

Hugo Vickers, a royal historian and author, told the paper: “I know Prince Philip consulted his lawyer about it, to ask ‘What can I do about it?’ He was very upset about the way that was portrayed. He was human. He could be hurt like anybody else.”

Vickers, the author of The Crown Dissected, which sets out errors in the series, said: “[Philip] was not displeased when I put the record straight.”

King Charles III led Remembrance Day ceremonies in London Sunday morning, as Great Britain paused to honor the war dead, and, perhaps, take note of an extraordinary year of change for the country.

Queen Elizabeth II had in recent years either not attended the ceremony, which takes place at Britain’s central war memorial, The Cenotaph, in London’s Whitehall, or watched it from a balcony of the Foreign Office. However, as Commander-in-Chief, she (and her late husband) always regarded it as one of her most important national duties.

When she was forced to miss the ceremony altogether in 2021 it was a glaring sign of the extent of her ill-health. Her absence hovered over today’s ceremony, not least when the Guards struck up Beethoven’s Funeral March in B Flat Major, the tune that was the accompaniment to much of her funeral in September.

10,000 members of veteran’s association the Royal British Legion took part in Sunday’s procession, along with another estimated 10,000 members of the public, making it the biggest such ceremony since before Covid.

Britain’s Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, Britain’s King Charles III, Britain’s Prince William, Prince of Wales and Britain’s Princess Anne, Princess Royal attend the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Cenotaph on Whitehall on November 13, 2022 in London, England.

Charles, wearing the great coat of a No. 1 Field Marshal, stood at the head of the royal family group, followed by Prince William, in RAF uniform, Prince Edward and Princess Anne. They all laid wreaths of poppies on the steps of the monument to mark different branches of the armed forces.

There was no role, even by proxy, for the only two members of the family to have seen active service in living memory, Prince Andrew and Prince Harry. Kate Middleton and Queen Camilla watched proceedings from the same Foreign Office balcony where Elizabeth stood in 2020 to observe.

Charles had been laying the wreath on her behalf since 2017 as she had struggled with mobility issues. The invited guests always include the prime minister (now Rishi Sunak), political leaders on all sides and former prime ministers.

In an extraordinary sign of the political chaos that has wracked the United Kingdom in recent years, the latter group this year included the record-breaking tally of seven living ex-prime ministers who now stalk the land: Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and John Major.

The Times of London poses and answers a fascinating question this weekend. Why, as the Mail on Sunday recently reported, was Prince Andrew “blindsided” by the outcome of the meeting and “utterly bereft” when King Charles told him there was no way back to return to his royal duties?

The Times says both the late queen and Andrew’s advisers were at fault, the former for not making it clear that Andrew’s royal days were over after he was accused of raping Virginia Roberts Giuffre—allegedly while she was being sexually trafficked by his good friend Jeffrey Epstein—and Andrew ended up paying her millions of dollars to ward off a court case.

The Times says Andrew is in “bad shape” and “finding it hard to see what his life will be like from now on. He and ex-wife Sarah Ferguson still live at Royal Lodge in Windsor, in different wings of the house. “He goes out riding, and his family comes to visit him. He sees his grandchildren. He is thought to watch a lot of television, including the golf and the cricket, and reads a bit. But he is not thought to have many friends,” the Times says. His ex-wife “is said to be privately realistic, but does not tell the duke what he does not want to hear.”

The Mail had reported Andrew had been tearful as Charles shattered his hopes, but a source told the Times, “Talk of a tearful exchange with his brother is overblown.” Another source told the Times: “The fact is that the duke has been slow to accept where he is.”

Meanwhile, the disgraced prince was this weekend said by Mail on Sunday to be planning a “fightback” after Giuffre dropped claims against American lawyer Alan Dershowitz, saying she “may have made a mistake” by accusing him of abusing her. A source told the paper: “Everything has changed and Andrew is determined to fight.”

Andrew spent Saturday at a shoot on the Windsor estate—which his siblings Anne and Edward also attended, the paper said. The Royalist would be inclined to treat the report with caution, having been reliably informed Andrew knows, now his mother is gone, the gig is up. However, it is no surprise to see him blasting birdies out of the sky with his family and friends. As The Daily Beast recently reported, Andrew is expected to have a “busy” winter shooting season, and expects his flow of invites to shoot at England and Scotland’s grandest sporting estates to continue.

Tickets for a charity gala on December 6 which will feature Harry and Meghan are fetching as much as $250,000 apiece, in a clear sign that the couple are still bank. However, in an extraordinary twist of fate, William and Kate are also due in America, to host their own charitable event, the ecologically-focused Earthshot prize, on December 2.

Attendance at that event, hosted by Caroline Kennedy, daughter of John F. Kennedy, is not for sale. The “Ripple of Hope” gala, which honors people for their humanitarian and philanthropic effort, is in memory of Robert Kennedy.

The Daily Mail reports that a top-tier “Pioneer” package costs $1 million, including four seats at the top table with Harry and Meghan. However, there have been questions over whether Harry and Meghan are worthy winners of the Ripple of Hope award. Former honorees include Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton.

Kennedy scholar Professor David Nasaw told the Mail: “I find it somewhere between sublimely ridiculous and blatantly ludicrous. It’s absurd. If you look at the people who have been awarded the Robert Kennedy prize in the past—Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi Bishop Desmond Tutu—then you have to ask what are Harry and Meghan doing here?” Alec Baldwin will compere the event.

It’s King Charles’ birthday tomorrow, November 14—his first as British monarch. He will turn 74, and be seeking to form and cement his legacy. And trying to evade his next tabloid nightmare.

Will Harry and Meghan stay away from the royal Christmas gathering? Can Prince Andrew really claw his way back to a public role? Why do the royals have such a problem with The Crown, when, if they bothered to watch it, they would find a show generally sympathetic to all their rich-person oddities and dramas-of-their-own-making?