Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Are Skipping Christmas with the Royal Family This Year
"Their Royal Highnesses will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the Duchess' mother Doria Ragland," according to Buckingham Palace
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are skipping the annual holiday festivities at Sandringham — including their public walk to church on Christmas morning — with Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the royal family.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are looking forward to extended family time towards the end of this month,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Wednesday. “Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, Their Royal Highnesses will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, 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 Her Majesty The Queen.”
The palace didn’t specify where they will be ringing in the holiday, but a source tells PEOPLE that they will not be spending it in Meghan’s hometown of Los Angeles, where Doria lives.
Meghan, 38, made her royal Christmas debut in 2017 shortly after she and Prince Harry, 35, announced their engagement. While pregnant with Archie, who the couple welcomed in May, they appeared alongside Prince William and Kate Middleton again last year.
Kate and William, both 37, previously spent Christmas away from Sandringham and the royal family’s annual celebrations. In 2016, they opted to spend the holiday with Kate’s family — and Prince George and Princess Charlotte were spotted attending a church service near Kate’s childhood home in Bucklebury.
Kate, William and their two children walked to St. Mark’s Church in Englefield with the Middleton family. Kate looked glamorous in a burgundy coat with matching fur trim while William kept it conservative in a suit and navy blue coat. Meanwhile, the children looked adorable in their Christmas church ensembles — George in a knee-length Pepa & Co. coat with coordinating knee socks and Charlotte in a dark coat with red tights and a matching bow. George also wore maroon shorts under his coats — matching dad’s tie.
Both of the children were spotted sucking on candy canes as they held their parents hands outside the church. At one point, Charlotte tried to use her tiny candy cane like a walking cane.
The royal children — and their little brother Prince Louis, 1 — have yet to make their royal Christmas debut.
Harry recently opened up about his relationship with his brother William in his emotionally wrenching ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey.
Speaking about the pressures of their jobs in the royal family, Harry said, “Inevitably stuff happens. But we’re brothers, we’ll always be brothers. We’re certainly on different paths at the moment. I’ll always be there for him and as I know, he’ll always be there for me. We don’t see each other as much as we used to because we’re so busy but I love him dearly.”
The father of one added, “The majority of stuff is created out of nothing. As brothers, we have good days and we have bad days.”
Back in April, an insider told PEOPLE that William and Harry “are at very different situations in their lives.”
According to the insider, the two were always destined for different paths. Harry, who leads with his instincts, sees his older brother as being hemmed in by protocol as the future monarch.
Their different approach to life was evident as Harry’s relationship with Meghan grew more serious. Multiple sources told PEOPLE that tensions between the brothers deepened back when Harry first told his family he wanted to marry Meghan after less than a year of dating.
The insider said William — who dated Kate, his college sweetheart, for about eight years before tying the knot — cautioned Harry that things were moving too quickly, leaving Harry angry and hurt.
It was previously revealed that Meghan and Harry will take about six weeks off towards the end of the year to spend some valuable “family time” together amid their concerns that the intense scrutiny they’ve faced has been tough on the couple.
“The duke and duchess have a full schedule of engagements and commitments until mid-November, after which they will be taking some much-needed family time,” a royal source confirmed to PEOPLE.
In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby — who conducted Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding last year — said the parents are “entitled” to some time off from royal duty.
“All members of the royal family are under a pressure that none of us outside it can possibly imagine,” Welby, 63, told the newspaper. “Every personal action is scrutinized. Every statement is over-interpreted, over-read.”
According to the Times, Welby has a “close personal relationship” with the couple.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are going to take a couple of months away from royal duties … If you look at it as a job, they didn’t take the full allowance of leave that you’re entitled to; every person is entitled to,” he said.
“I don’t know why it should be a point of criticism that they take leave to spend time with a new baby in the way that the law provides for every single employee in this country,” Welby shared.
“They’re not superhuman,” Welby added. “They’re a very remarkable group of people, all of them. But you can’t lay that kind of extra burden on people.”