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

On the same day as their emotional appearance at the Military Awards, Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge headed to Buckingham Palace to help get the royal family”s Christmas celebrations started.

The pair couple joined senior royals including Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips for lunch with the Queen.



The monarch holds the occasion every year for around 50 extended family members. Many of the group will be spending Christmas 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 family members have been invited – the biggest gathering in decades.

As well as the usual roll call of royals, the guest list 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. And among the last to arrive will be Prince Charles and Camilla.

Presents will be opened on Christmas Eve – in line with tradition – then the family change into black tie and evening gowns for a candlelit banquet.

On Christmas morning they attend 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 family will gather around the TV to watch the Queen”s Christmas speech.

Like 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 and their spouses, 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.

“Its 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.”