The royal Christmas tradition Meghan Markle was allowed to break but Kate Middleton never did

Back in 2017 the Duchess of Sussex enjoyed her first Christmas Day with the Royal Family and there was something significant about it...

Christmas tradition Meghan Markle was allowed to break revealed, seen here is Meghan at a Christmas Day Church service
(Image credit: Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

There was one royal Christmas tradition Meghan Markle was allowed to break once, but her sister-in-law Kate Middleton never did. 


There was one royal Christmas tradition Meghan Markle was allowed to break once thanks to the Queen and she seems to have set a new trend. Back in 2017, Meghan and Prince Harry marked Christmas Day with the late Queen and Prince Philip at Sandringham House. They were accompanied for these special celebrations by plenty of the Queen’s children and grandchildren, including Prince William and Kate Middleton. But unlike the others, Meghan and Prince Harry weren’t married at the time of this iconic festive period. 

The Sussexes had announced their engagement just a month before but the now-Duchess had yet to tie the knot with the Queen’s grandson. Her being invited to spend Christmas at Sandringham was incredibly significant as a result, as it’s understood that traditionally partners didn’t get this privilege - only spouses did. 

Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Princess Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry attend Christmas Day Church service

(Image credit: Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Instead, most of them only enjoyed their first royal Christmas in Norfolk the December after their wedding. This was reportedly the case for Mike Tindall after his marriage to Zara, as well as for the Princess of Wales. She reportedly started dating Prince William in 2001, but it was only the December after Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding in 2011 that she joined his family for the first time.

For this pivotal milestone, Kate Middleton’s “frugal” Christmas gift for the Queen consisted of a practical present and is said to have helped forge her close bond with her late grandmother-in-law. Although she and Prince William also announced their engagement in the autumn, according to The Independent (opens in new tab) she chose to uphold the tradition and declined an invitation from the Queen to come to Christmas lunch at Sandringham in December 2006.

Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, Camilla, Duchess Of Cornwall And Catherine, Duchess Of Cambridge Attend St Mary Magdalene Church

(Image credit: Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)

They report that royal author Robert Lacey claimed in his book, Battle of Brothers, that she felt she “would go to Sandringham on Christmas Day only when she was engaged and had a ring to prove it”. In the end, it was eight months later that Kate experienced her first Norfolk Christmas. 

Of course, the situations were slightly different between the sisters-in-law as Meghan’s family lived across the pond in the US. In light of this, the invitation for her to enjoy her first Christmas as an engaged couple with Prince Harry and his family is a very thoughtful one. 

It also looks as though it paved the way for a new, modern approach to festive invites. In 2019, two years after Meghan spent her first Christmas in Norfolk, Princess Beatrice’s then-boyfriend Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi joined her at Sandringham. 

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex attend Christmas Day Church service at Church of St Mary Magdalene

(Image credit: Photo by Samir Hussein/Samir Hussein/WireImage via Getty)

In the years since this royal Christmas tradition Meghan Markle was allowed to break, she’s spent one more at Sandringham, before marking the holiday in Canada in 2019 and in the US since then. Although many might be hoping to see the royals all gather together to celebrate with King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla on this first Christmas since losing the Queen, it’s currently thought unlikely Prince Harry and Meghan will fly over for the celebrations.  

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.