So, what are you doing for Christmas?
If this question breaks you out in hives, have some sympathy for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, for whom Christmas choices have an outsize significance.
Despite the couple’s now very public difficulties with Harry’s brother, it had been widely assumed that the fractured foursome would come together for the annual walk to church on Christmas morning.
Today, however, came yet another confirmation of the deep rift at the heart of the Windsors as it was claimed, on the front page of national newspaper the Sun no less, that Meghan and Harry will not be joining the merry band of Windsors for turkey and plum pudding at the Queen’s country house, Sandringham, with a royal source telling the paper: “They need some time away to recharge and decide their plans for next year.”
Given that the couple is about to embark on a six-week break from royal duties, this hardly seems a credible explanation, but it probably wouldn’t do to say that they can’t face the prospect of being trapped in the same room as William and Kate.
This weekend, the four young royals failed to make any steps toward improving the optics around their relationship when they stood apart at two separate events.
The couple is likely to spend Christmas Day quietly at their own home, Frogmore Cottage, perhaps with Meghan’s mom, Doria, the Sun says.
To understand quite how shocking this development is to the well-worn festive regal routine, consider this fact: Harry has spent every Christmas of his life at Sandringham, except for 2012, when he was stationed with the army in Afghanistan.
For the past two years he has taken Meghan along for the ride.
The happy and rapturous tones in which Harry described his first Christmas at Sandringham when he was merely engaged to Meghan now seem a distant memory.
In an interview on Radio 4 shortly after Christmas 2017, the joy was bubbling out of him. He described how Meghan had loved the experience, saying for her it was like discovering the family she had “never had.”
The absence of Meghan and Harry at the Sandringham feast table comes after they snubbed the annual royal vacay in Balmoral this year.
Meghan and Harry did not take up the standing invite to the Queen’s Scottish estate, instead opting for a variety of glamorous European breaks, including a stay at a villa in Ibiza and a brief sojourn at Elton John’s home in the South of France.
Harry said in a recent TV interview that he and William were on “different paths,” while Meghan criticized the “stiff upper lip” attitude of the royal family.
Subsequently, William’s people briefed that he was concerned about his “fragile” brother and the Sussexes hit back by saying the house of Windsor was failing to harness their potential.
The Daily Beast has reached out to the palace for comment.