There was a general sense of astonishment among seasoned royal journalists when an announcement was made this week that Prince Harry’s fiancée Meghan Markle had been invited to spend Christmas Day at Sandringham with the queen.
It wasn’t so much the content of the briefing – “You can expect to see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Ms. Markle at Sandringham on Christmas Day,” a Kensington Palace spokesman said, suggesting her visit will be a church-and-lunch invite while they will likely stay up the road at Kate and William’s place, Anmer Hall – as the fact it was made at all.
The act of announcing, well in advance of the fact, that Meghan will be making the much-photographed walk to church on Christmas Day with her husband-to-be’s family is hugely significant to royal Kremlinologists, as it suggests an attempt by Meghan and Harry to reboot relations with the press.
By pre-announcing this news, Harry and Meghan have earned the gratitude of the media; newspapers can now assign, in an orderly fashion, reporters and photographers to Sandringham on Christmas Day, as a picture of Meghan flanked by the family will almost certainly be the biggest news of item of the slowest of news days.
The simple gesture of enlightening the media of their planned attendance contrasts mightily with William and Kate’s often petulant and sometimes paranoid attempts to keep their schedule, or even the name of their dog, secret, although William deserves credit for setting the mood music that has facilitated Meghan’s invitation, by insisting that his wife’s family, the Middletons, have been conspicuously included in royal gatherings.
While the importance of the advance announcement will perhaps be of interest only to the limited number of people whose work life corresponds closely with the fashion choices and whereabouts of Meghan Markle (check), the significance of having Meghan walking back from church to sit down for her Christmas dinner will be lost on no-one.