Kate Middleton was said to have cancelled all engagements this month so she could rest and recover from the bout of severe morning sickness that left her hospitalized.
But there are some events that not even a convalescing Duchess of Cambridge can get out of – Firm (a nickname for the British Royal Family) commitments.
Fortunately Kate Middleton seems to have put the worst of her illness behind her and looked in good health for the annual event hosted by the Queen to ensure those family members she doesn’t have enough room for at Sandringham still get a chance to celebrate in style.
Christmas itself is spent at the private Norfolk estate where her immediate family celebrates the festive season each year.
Unusually, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived for today’s gathering separately, Prince William hitching a ride with his cousin Lord Linley.
Sources said it was more than likely because they had come from different venues that morning – perhaps Prince William was picking up some last minute Christmas presents at Linley’s eponymous Pimlico shop.
The couple were later seen being driven away together.
Yesterday the couple made a surprise appearance at their office Christmas party at a restaurant in London’s Notting Hill, showing that the pregnant Kate Middleton is clearly on the mend after being hospitalized for three days with hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition which causes severe sickness in pregnant women, earlier this month.
Prince William, like the other male members of the Royal Family, was suited and booted to within an inch of his life.
Prince Charles arrived with his beaming wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. Only his younger son, Prince Harry, was absent as he will spend Christmas fighting on the frontline in Afghanistan as an Apache attack helicopter pilot.
Princess Beatrice, wearing a floral dress, drove herself in without fanfare – although she still, contrary to reports, had a police protection officer in tow – as did her sister, Princess Eugenie.
Their father the Duke of York was also present but not, unsurprisingly, their mother Sarah, Duchess of York, who has been barred from family events for several years following a series of scandals.
Princess Michael of Kent, who celebrates her 68th birthday in January, looked astonishingly youthful as she smiled for the camera.
The royal, who is married to the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, has admitted using botox in the past and once joked that “toyboys keep me young”.
Also present were the Earl and Countess and Wessex and their elder daughter, Lady Louise, a particular favorite of the Queen who even watches the children’s television channel CBeebies with her.
Princess Margaret’s daughter, Lady Sarah Chatto was there with her brood, as was the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra.
The reclusive Duchess of Kent did not appear to have accepted an invitation but her glamorous daughter, Lady Helen Taylor, was there with her art dealer husband Timothy.
The lunch lasted two hours with Prince William and Kate Middleton leaving together this time. Eugenie was the first to head off with Charles and Camilla following shortly afterwards.
The Queen is expected to leave for Sandringham, one of her favorite residences, after the lunch for an extended Christmas break with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Hopefully this year will be happier than the last, when elderly Philip was rushed to hospital for heart surgery shortly before his family was due to arrive.
In line with their German roots – and the fact that the Queen regards Christmas Day as a religious festival – the royals swap presents on Christmas Eve.
Everyone gathers in the White Drawing room at around 4pm where the Queen and the younger members of the family put the finishing touches to a Norfolk spruce cut from the 1,000-acre estate before exchanging gifts.