Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, Kate Middleton, and Prince William put on a united front on Tuesday, attempting to draw a veil over rumors of a family feud as they strode four-abreast into a Christmas Day church service at the queen’s country home, Sandringham.
However, the surprise absence of Prince Philip stoked new fears over the health of the queen’s 97-year old husband, despite the palace insisting he was "in good health." (He missed church two years ago when the palace said he had a "heavy cold.")
In her annual televised speech to the nation, the queen urged viewers to put aside their differences and come together in mutual respect. The remarks were widely assumed to refer to the divisive Brexit process, but were also interpreted as having resonance for those family members allegedly beset by quarrels.
A black and white photograph of her and the Duke of Edinburgh with a baby Prince Charles, from the early days of her marriage, was tactically positioned on the desk from behind which she spoke.
However it was the church appearance of Kate and Meghan that was most eagerly dissected for clues as to the state of their relationship, and the two seemed happy and relaxed as they laughed and chatted to each other walking to the church door.
Whilst a portrayal of family harmony was central to the choreography of the day, Kate and Meghan both embraced their very different style personas for the annual service, which began, as always, with a rousing chorus of God Save The Queen.
Kate opted for a formal, mature and traditional look, in a full length red double breasted coat dress. The claret coat is a remake of a Catherine Walker style which she also owns in bottle green, first worn on St Patrick’s Day in 2017.
Meghan was much more glamorous, in head-to-toe Victoria Beckham. The designer is a friend of hers who lives just a few miles away from Harry and Meghan’s country home in Oxfordshire.
Rather than seeking to hide her pregnancy bump, Meghan actively styled herself to enhance her pregnancy shape in a simple black dress, open double-breasted coat and slouchy knee boots.
She also carried an object of fashion desire: a $2,000 Beckham handbag.
Buckingham Palace sought to play down Prince Philip’s non-appearance, saying he would be participating in the traditional Christmas Day lunch at Sandringham. ("The duke is in perfectly good health, he is just spending the day privately," a Royal source told Reuters.) But the palace gave no indication that the duke would not be attending the church service—raising royals-watchers' eyebrows.
Although he attended the queen’s pre-Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace this week, Prince Philip did not accompany the queen on her annual train ride from London to Norfolk the following day.