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Kate's first Christmas as a royal at biggest Sandringham gathering in decades

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On the same day as their emotional appearance at the Military Awards, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge headed to Buckingham Palace for a Christmas lunch hosted by the Queen.The couple were joined by royals such as Prince Charles, his wife the Duchess of Cornwall and Zara Phillips, who was accompanied by her husband Mike Tindall.


Each year, the monarch invites around 50 relatives to join her for a meal just before Christmas. Many of them are spending the festive period with their own families rather than attending the traditional gathering at Sandringham. Even so, there is still a sizeable crowd joining the Queen and Prince Philip on Christmas Day. A reported 29 guests have been invited – the biggest gathering in decades. The list of invitees includes Princess Margaret's son Viscount Linley, his wife Serena and children the Honourable Charles and Margarita Armstrong-Jones. His sister, Lady Sarah Chatto, her husband Daniel and children Samuel and Arthur Chatto are also expected. Guests will arrive at the Queen's Norfolk estate (pictured) from the morning of December 23 onwards. Prince Charles and CamillaAmong the last to arrive are usually . Presents will be opened on Christmas Eve – in line with tradition – before the family change into black tie for a candlelit banquet. On the morning of December 25 everyone attends a service at the nearby St Mary Magdalene Church. Then it's back to the house for a turkey roast.


Everything will come to a halt at 3pm, however, when the Windsors gather around the TV to watch the Queen's Christmas speech. As in many other households across Britain, the evening is spent relaxing, playing games and watching TV. On Boxing Day, Prince Philip organises a pheasant shoot, and for the first time, Kate's sister Pippa is apparently invited. The event is usually restricted to members of the royal family, but it's thought Pippa has been asked along to help her sister feel more at home during her first Christmas away from her family. A source told said: "Pippa's very keen to go and she's been on a couple of shooting weekends to make sure she won't let the side down. "She gets on very well with William and Harry, and the Duke of Edinburgh has a soft spot for her. "It's unusual for non-family members to receive an invitation, but William wants Kate to feel comfortable and he knows having her sister there will mean a great deal to her."

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