Tomorrow, 30 or more of the Queen’s nearest and dearest will descend on her Sandringham estate.
Although imposing, the main house is small by Royal standards, with accommodation described as ‘cramped’ – which means finding space for the Monarch’s expanding brood requires exhaustive logistical planning.
In recent years, some of the more junior family members have found themselves billeted in servants’ quarters, while others take over cottages on the Norfolk estate.
If nothing else, depositing Harry and Meghan with William and Kate over at Anmer Hall, the Cambridges’ stunning ten-bedroom Georgian pile, would help ease the crush.
It is only a couple of miles away and the arrangement worked well last year, when the Duke of Sussex rhapsodised about their ‘fantastic’ stay.
And what better way to signal that tensions between the two Royal wives are not as serious as suggested?
Yet The Mail on Sunday has established that this Christmas, the Sussexes will be housed with the other guests – ‘packed in like sardines’, according to a source – under the Queen’s roof.
Against reports of growing distance between the two couples, it will be impossible for some not to interpret this as a snub to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Spacious, peaceful and extensively refurbished, Anmer Hall would have provided pregnant Meghan with a welcome haven away from overflowing Sandringham House.
Even at the best of times, Christmas at the Queen’s Norfolk residence can be daunting.
Little if anything is left to chance. Timetables are placed in guests’ rooms, for instance, to ensure no one is late for drinks and meals.
And if you are a Los Angeles native still learning to navigate The Firm’s infinitely complex social mores, it is more daunting still.
Having her sister-in-law close at hand would help. But then few doubt that a froideur between the two duchesses does exist, even if it has sometimes been overplayed.
Sources say Meghan and Kate are ‘very different people’ and simply ‘don’t get on.’
It also emerged that Kate was left ‘in tears’ after a fitting for Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid’s dress before Harry and Meghan’s wedding in May.
One Royal insider gives a prosaic explanation for the Sussexes’ seasonal sleeping arrangements. Last Christmas it was felt that allowing Harry and Meghan, then unmarried, to spend the night at the main house would be inappropriate.
Inviting Meghan to share in the festivities in the first place had been a break with convention – there was no need to shatter protocol completely. Anmer Hall offered the perfect solution.
But their marriage changed everything. It would now be unusual, said the source, for the couple not to stay with the Queen.
Even so, it is a decision that will inevitably stoke further speculation. Certainly, it is unlikely to halt the drip, drip of ‘War of the Waleses’ stories.
How Meghan, naturally forthright, must be struggling to hold her tongue.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail – Charlotte Wace