Meghan Markle and Prince Harry won't be spending Christmas Day with the Queen and the rest of the royal family in Sandringham this year. A royal spokesperson confirmed earlier this week that the couple is "looking forward to extended family time" and doing their own thing.
"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.
With this being their son, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor's first Christmas, it's understandable that Meghan would want to share it with her mum. But one insider doesn't think this is the only reason the Sussexes have made the decision to swerve a royal Christmas.
Speaking to Sky News, royal expert Angela Levin suggested the hard year Meghan and Harry have had may also be a big factor in their choice.
"I think it is a gigantic step but I'm not really surprised by it. It’s sort of been coming," the expert said in an interview. Levin's reasoning is all linked to the interviews the Duke and Duchess of Sussex gave in Africa about their treatment in the press.
Speaking to ITV News presenter Tom Bradby while filming their documentary, Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, Meghan opened up about the harsh criticism she's received from the media, which she believes has not been "fair".
"When people are saying things that are just untrue, and they're being told they're untrue but they're allowed to still say them, I don't know anybody in the world that would feel like that's okay," Meghan said during the emotional interview.
Prince Harry has been having just as hard a time of it, having to watch his wife experience the same hounding by the press as his mother tragically did.
"Look, part of this job and part of any job, like everybody, means putting on a brave face and turning a cheek to a lot of the stuff. But again, for me and for my wife, of course, there’s a lot of stuff that hurts — especially when the majority of it is untrue," Harry said in the documentary.
"But all we need to do is focus on being real, focus on being the people we are and standing up for what we believe in. I will not be bullied into carrying a game that killed my mum," the prince added.
It was a powerful move for Meghan and Harry to speak so boldly about the impact the media scrutiny is having, and royal expert Angela Levin believes this could be at the heart of why they are having a quiet Christmas to themselves.
"If your wife feels that she’s existing and not living, she’s unhappy and you are going through a difficult patch as well, perhaps one of the last things you want to do is go somewhere in the UK which is bleak and cold with a whole load of family," suggested Levin.
"It’s very demanding, it’s very regimented over Christmas," she added, referring to the extensive rules and traditions the family must adhere to over the festive period. "You know, you can’t eat after the Queen stops eating, you can’t go to bed unless the Queen has gone to bed. Everything is absolutely on time.
"I think if you are tense anyway it’s quite difficult," said the royal expert.
And she's got a point; after a year like 2019 has been for Harry and Meghan, it's entirely understandable that the couple might just want some down time to relax, reflect and refresh themselves ahead of next year. Doing that quietly with Meghan's mum Doria is, perhaps, the obvious solution.
And that's without any consideration about how a young baby factors in to all the royal protocol at Sandringham. With parenthood still being relatively new to both the Duke and Duchess, they possibly want to follow their own schedule and not be restricted to the one dictated by the tradition of a royal Christmas. When Prince George and Princess Charlotte were very young, Kate Middleton and Prince William made the exact same decision, choosing to spend Christmas with Kate's family in Berkshire in 2016.
And, anyway, it seems the Queen is very supportive of Meghan and Harry's choice to spend Christmas separately. The official 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."
An inside aide confirmed this, pointing out: "The duke and duchess see a lot of the Queen as they now live at Windsor. That's why they didn't go to Scotland this summer and why the Queen is supportive of their decision about Christmas."
We hope Meghan, Harry, Archie and Doria have just the kind of relaxing family Christmas they hope for, and that next year will be kinder to them.
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