meghan-markle-prince-harry-christmas

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will not spend Christmas with the Queen

The couple will spend baby Archie's first Christmas with Meghan's mother Doria Ragland

Gemma Strong

UPDATE: HELLO! has confirmed that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will not be spending Christmas at Sandringham this year. HELLO! understands that Harry and Meghan are looking forward to extended family time towards the end of this month and will spend the festive period with the Duchess' mother Doria Ragland. This decision is in line with precedent set previously by other members of the Royal Family, and has the support of the Queen.

ORIGINAL STORY: Every year, the royal family gather at the monarch's Norfolk estate for the annual festivities – but it seems there might be fewer places around the dinner table this December. Numerous reports state that Harry and Meghan are considering joining her mother Doria Ragland in the States for Archie's first Christmas. The couple, who are set to embark on a six-week break from royal duties next week, have plans to travel over the Atlantic for Thanksgiving, and there is a chance they will stay out there until the festive period. Alternatively, they might choose to celebrate quietly at home in Frogmore Cottage.

Harry has always spent Christmas with the Queen at Sandringham, with the exception of 2012 when he was in Afghanistan. He has been joined by Meghan for the past two years. Reports that the couple have chosen not to join the rest of the royals in Norfolk will do little to quell speculation about Harry and Meghan's relationship with the family – but it could instead simply reflect a more modern approach to the celebrations. Prince William and Kate famously alternate between Sandringham and the Middletons' family home in Bucklebury; they spent Prince George's first Christmas in 2014 with the royals, while in 2016 the family were spotted attending a Christmas Day church service at St Mark's Church in Englefield, Berkshire, along with the Duchess' parents, Carole and Michael, and her siblings, Pippa and James. That year marked Princess Charlotte's first Christmas.

MORE: Fearne Cotton reveals how Prince William and Kate Middleton made her realise her relationship was doomed

The royals traditionally gather in Norfolk for the festivities

MORE: Why Sussexes and the Cambridges sit separately at the Festival of Remembrance

Christmas Day at the Middletons' mansion is said to be a less formal affair than at Sandringham, with the Duchess's father Michael rumoured to wear fancy dress on the day. At Sandringham, meanwhile, everything from their arrival time to when they eat breakfast and retire to bed, is strictly timetabled. The royals take part in a number of annual traditions, including their ritual visit to St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, and a group viewing of the monarch's televised Christmas message. Furthermore, the royals exchange their gifts on Christmas Eve, in honour of their German heritage. The official royal website confirms, "On Christmas Eve, the royal family lay out their presents on trestle tables and will exchange their gifts at teatime." It's also thought they follow a tradition of gifting each other joke presents. "They enjoy a bit of a giggle – they have a tremendous sense of humour," Alexandra Messervy, former employee of the royal household, previously revealed.