Shortly before 11 a.m. on Christmas Day, as the royal family makes its way into the church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Sandringham estate, we will get our first eyewitness insight into the state of relations between Meghan and Kate, and Harry and William.
Last year, the four of them walked to church together, talking, smiling and chatting, four abreast, like a posh version of Reservoir Dogs.
Will they do the same this year?
Probably. Make no mistake, the royal family, so often prohibited by convention or decorum from actually speaking, have a deep-rooted understanding of iconography. Knowing the picture will make news all over the world, it will be stage-managed as carefully as it will appear casual.
The young royals know that a failure to present a happy front would only stoke the feud narrative that has been so damaging to their brands this year.
Christmas is a time to come together, and this is more important than ever for the next generation of Britain’s royal family. It is no secret that the two brothers and their wives have had their differences this year. Indeed, on their very first joint engagement back in February, they were asked whether they ever have disagreements working together as family. And they all awkwardly laughed in response.
“Oh yes,” Prince William said emphatically, as the others continued to laugh.
“Healthy disagreements,” said Harry.
The moderator then asked how the pairs resolved the last thing they disagreed on, to which Prince Harry replied, “I can’t remember—they come so freaking fast. I think it’s really good that we’ve got four different personalities. You know, we’ve all got that same passion to want to make a difference. But, different opinions. And I think those opinions work really, really well. Working as family does have its challenges—of course it does. But look, you know, we’re stuck together for the rest of our lives.”
Few realized at the time the significance of those words, but it has now emerged that, since Harry announced his engagement to Meghan, there have been plenty of problems, which culminated in Harry and Meghan making the controversial decision to move out of Kensington Palace.
There is no doubt that tensions between the brothers and their wives have made their presence felt. On one occasion, Meghan reportedly made an emotional, post-partum Kate cry in a confrontation about Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress.
Their courts may split, but, as the roguish Harry jokingly put it in that interview, on a family level they are stuck with each other. Like all of us, they have to make the best of it.
It’s important, in this regard, to study the timeline of the feud in relation to last Christmas. Things apparently first blew up in the autumn, when William urged Harry to go slow in his relationship with Meghan, and Harry reportedly accused his brother of trying to shut down the relationship before it had even begun.
And yet, William and Kate invited Harry and Meghan to spend Christmas with them.
The newly engaged couple had, by Harry’s account, a fantastic time.
The prince may not have exactly been media-savvy when he referenced Meghan’s troubled family in a Radio 4 interview, but there was no doubting the genuine joy the couple experienced spending Christmas Day “with my brother.”
There have been conflicting reports about where Meghan and Harry will stay, with one report claiming it would be “astonishing” if they do not stay with Kate and William at their manor house a few miles across the fields, while other reports suggest that Meghan and Harry will opt for a room in the crowded confines of Sandringham House.
Courtiers in Harry’s office declined to comment to The Daily Beast on the conflicting reports of who will be staying where, and would only say that both couples would be spending Christmas Day at Sandringham with the queen.
But the most likely option is that Meghan and Harry will indeed stay with William and Kate (although a rumor that Meghan’s mother, Doria, would be attending the Christmas celebrations at Sandringham, an unprecedented move, is unfounded), not least because Anmer Hall, which was gutted and completely refurbished when William and Kate moved in five years ago, is warmer and far more comfortable than Sandringham, an important consideration for a pregnant woman.
It is often said by tactful insiders that Meghan and Kate are “very different people” and everything about this year has shown that; from Christmas cards to country houses to dress sense, these are two people with diametrically opposite ideas about pretty much everything.
Another example: The Daily Beast hears that Kate was bemused when Meghan gave her a dream diary at one of their first encounters: “Suggesting that someone should start writing down their dreams as a key to unlocking their inner self may be standard in Meghan’s world, but it’s really not the done thing in the House of Windsor,” said a source, noting that the royals usually give each other simple or novelty gifts; Prince Charles was once famously given a padded toilet seat by his sister.
So while Meghan would be well advised to steer clear of birthstones and dreamcatchers as she attempts to build bridges with her relatives, she did not vow to abandon her principles and personality when she married Harry, and to do so would be a disservice to herself.
There has been much speculation about whether or not Harry will attend the annual Boxing Day shoot this year, or if, under pressure from Meghan, he will make his excuses and leave Sandringham early.
This has been invoked in some quarters as evidence of Meghan’s “difficult” and “interfering” nature.
But take a step back, and who can deny that the royal family is desperately in need of interrogating its relationship with blood sports?
Whatever the broader arguments about conservation, the fact remains that blood sports involve people, usually rich and privileged ones, killing sentient animals for fun, an activity that is repugnant to many people.
Their love of shooting brings the family into all sorts of unnecessary conflicts, and if Meghan can get Harry to understand even that tiny point, she should be saluted as an important and powerful force for change, rather than smeared as “Duchess Difficult.”