While Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have chosen to spend the holiday season in the US with their son Archie and Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, the rest of the royal family are keeping up with tradition and joining Her Majesty at her country retreat, Sandringham House.
But royal insiders warn that drama between some of the most senior members of the monarchy is likely to reach boiling point as the family gather for the annual festivities.
In particular, the relationship between Princess Anne – famously one of the hardest working royals of all time – and her disgraced younger brother, Prince Andrew is reportedly extremely tense.
“Princess Anne would not be happy with Andrew’s behaviour and isn’t one to hide her feelings. She may have a few harsh words with her brother,” suggests Phil.
After months of speculation following the duke’s association with convicted, and now deceased, sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and the ensuing fall-out from his car-crash Panorama interview, Anne is said to be particularly keen to avoid spending any time with Andrew, who was last month stripped of his royal duties.
“Although the Queen would have supported Andrew, he will be finding the atmosphere a bit icy. He is in the doghouse and will have to stay there.”
Although Andrew has continually and ‘categorically’ denied any involvement in the trafficking of under-age girls, there have been ongoing calls by Epstein’s victims for him
to be investigated by police and the FBI.
No doubt the Queen will find the ordeal of watching her children coming to blows distressing.
“It is bad enough that Harry and Meghan have caused friction among the royals, but now Andrew has added a lot more trouble,” Phil says.
The royals expert reveals that several members of the royal family feel the Duke of York has single-handedly let the monarchy down.
“I’m told Prince William is also concerned about Andrew’s reputation, and he will make his feelings known too.
“Charles and William are the future king and heir and they now have to take charge as the Queen approaches her 94th birthday.”
Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, holds the same view as the rest of the family.
“She feels like Andrew has no other choice but to drop out of public life and she knows she must support her husband Charles in telling Andrew there is no way out,” explains Phil.
But not everyone will be comfortable with the heightened tension within the royal family.
“It will be a very difficult Christmas this year, especially for Kate,” Phil says.
Concerned that all the drama could overshadow what should be a joyous time for her three young children, Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 4, and Prince Louis, 1, there are fears Kate may end up in tears.
Indeed, last month Kate opened up about how important Christmas is to her and her family, saying how she wanted to “give them the opportunities to enjoy all aspects of it”.
Phil says: “Kate would have probably preferred to be with her family, as would William, but with no Harry and Meghan, they would have felt they must be with the Queen and Philip, who is becoming frail.”
There’s been much speculation about how the Queen felt after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced they planned to spend Archie’s first festive season in Los Angeles. “The Queen would never admit it but she will be very disappointed,” the royal expert believes.
Tensions between Meghan, Harry and the rest of the royal family are thought to be heightened amid reports that the couple feel ‘isolated’ and that members of the royal family aren’t talking to them.
“They don’t speak, no-one is checking in, no-one is texting,” a source told People magazine.
One person who may actually be relishing the opportunity to spend time with his extended family at this time is Prince Philip, who is “increasingly frail”, according to Phil, and spends much of his time resting up at Sandringham.
His long-held position as the family’s patriarch may have been thwarted by him being less active and involved with royal activities in recent years, but it’s likely the opinionated duke will still share his views on what’s been going on.
“He is getting very old and is frustrated that he can’t run the family like he used to,” says Phil.
“He would have told Andrew he has to take his punishment but he would have also told him that eventually the scandal will fade as have so many problems over the years.”
But it seems the drama won’t only be unfolding at Sandringham House. While Meghan and Harry, who are on a six-week break from their royal duties, try their best to enjoy some privacy during this holiday season, the couple are said to have been dealing with their own dramas in the US.
Meghan’s father Thomas Markle is once again pleading with his daughter to allow him to see his grandson for the first time, during their visit to California.
“Thomas Markle would love to see Meghan and bury the hatchet.
“He has made it clear he would love to see her, and meet Harry and Archie for the first time, and I think they should.
“But so far Meghan has shown no signs of wanting a reconciliation, which is sad,” says Phil.
Meghan’s uncle Joseph Johnson has also made a plea to see his niece over the holiday period.
He told the Daily Mail: “I would like to, we would really like to, but I think the situation that she’s in with the royal family, all the protocol and so fourth and so on … I don’t think that’s likely to happen unless she really stepped forward and wanted to have us there, and that kind of situation, you know. But it would be nice.”
For more, see this week’s New Idea – out now!