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Meghan Markle has joined the Royal Family for the Christmas Day service at Queen Elizabeth’s Norfolk estate.

Prince Harry and his fiancée arrived at a carol service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham along with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Queen Elizabeth returned after missing last year’s service due to a heavy cold.

Princes Philip and Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles also attended, along with other members of the family.

Image source Wikimedia

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After the service, Meghan Markle joined members of the family in greeting the crowds.

According to specialists, if royal tradition from previous years was followed, the family will have exchanged presents on Christmas Eve and awoken to a stocking of small gifts and fruit at the end of their beds.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip also attended an early Holy Communion service at the church.

They will return home for a traditional turkey lunch, before watching the Queen’s speech together.

This year, the Queen will pay tribute to London and Manchester for the manner in which they dealt with this year’s terror attacks, as well as praising Prince Phillip for his support in the year of the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary.

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The British Royal Family has defended the refurbishment of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Kensington Palace apartment, following reports it will cost the taxpayer about £4 million ($6.5 million).

Extensive work, including construction of a new roof, will be carried out.

The total cost has yet to be confirmed by the royal household but it will be published next week.

Prince William and Kate Middleton's Kensington Palace apartment repairs will cost the taxpayer about $6.5 million

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s Kensington Palace apartment repairs will cost the taxpayer about $6.5 million

A spokeswoman said there had previously been no running water and the couple had paid for all internal furnishings.

She added asbestos was removed and an overhaul of the electrics was carried out.

Prince William and Kate Middelton’s London apartment was designed by Christopher Wren and was the home of Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon.

The princess remained there after their divorce and lived there until her death in 2002.

The living space was last refurbished in 1963.

A spokeswoman for the couple said: “This is the duke and duchess’s one and only official residence. It is here that they plan to stay for many, many years to come.

“We also had to take into account the fact that Kensington Palace is a scheduled ancient monument, and all elements of the refurbishment had to be agreed with English Heritage.

“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paid privately for all the internal furnishings, including carpets and curtains.

“They were also at pains to ensure that the specification is not extravagant.”

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Kate Middleton’s uncle, Gary Goldsmith, has predicted his niece is about to give birth to a baby girl – and when she does, he says it will be “unbelievable” for the female firstborn to make history.

“My suspicion is that they’re having a baby girl,” he told the Mirror.

“But, of course, I don’t know that for fact. I believe Kate and William have kept the gender of their child a secret to everyone but themselves.”

Gary Goldsmith said that it would be “brilliant” if Prince William and Kate Middleton’s firstborn was a girl – because thanks to the recent amendment to British succession law allowing female firstborn children to rule, a girl baby would one day be Queen.

“It would be brilliant, wouldn’t it, if they do have a little girl? To have one of my family, my niece, making history will be absolutely unbelievable.” 

Gary Goldsmith went onto praise Kate Middleton and Prince William as a “very modern couple”, saying he believes William will be “as hands-on as Kate” with the parenting.

“That’s the genius of it,” he said.

“They’re modernizing the Royal Family and doing a wonderful job of it.”

The so-called King Of Fun, known to Kate, Pippa and James Middleton as Uncle G – has already been looking around for a baby gift for the new arrival – and has his eye on a £70,000 ($100,000) rocking elephant he spotted in Royal Warranted jewellers Asprey.

Gary Goldsmith has already been looking around for a baby gift for the new arrival and has his eye on a $100,000 rocking elephant he spotted in Royal Warranted jewellers Asprey

Gary Goldsmith has already been looking around for a baby gift for the new arrival and has his eye on a $100,000 rocking elephant he spotted in Royal Warranted jewellers Asprey

“I went to Asprey’s recently and saw an amazing, huge elephant rocker, like Dumbo, for about £70,000,” he told the Mirror.

“Or there was a chest of some first edition Tintins.

“But because family is so important to Kate – she is incredibly close to Carole and Pip – I would rather get something personal and more meaningful. Although I did like that elephant…!”

But the 48-year-old businessman brother of Carole Middleton has another trick up his sleeve too.

The self-made millionaire, who made his £30 million ($50 million) fortune in investments and recruitment consultancy, has said he plans to buy the baby shares in Chelsea football club – something that may not go down too well with William, who is a die-hard Aston Villa fan.

Gary Goldsmith, who sold his shares in recruitment consultancy firm SThree PLC for £17 million ($27 million) eight years ago, told The Sun: “I’m going to get exactly what I get for all my mates’ babies.

“As a die-hard Chelsea fan, I always get the baby Chelsea shares. Then, when it’s a bit older, I get it a full tiny Chelsea strip.

“It’s brilliant, it drives the parents mad. I love turning their kid into a true blue Chelsea fan. And Prince William is an Aston Villa fan. I thought it could be hilarious. I mean, what on earth can you get for a baby like theirs? That baby is going to have everything it could ever want. So Chelsea shares are perfect. I think William will find it funny.

Gary Goldsmith, who was at the Royal Wedding in 2011 despite being stung months earlier in an undercover operation that revealed him to be in the possession of cocaine, says he is under no illusion he could be handed the honor of godparent to the Royal firstborn.

I would hope to be at the christening, but I’m sure I won’t be a godfather!”

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According to newly-updated “protocols” approved by Queen Elizabeth II, Duchess of Cambridge has been placed firmly down the royal pecking order.

A document is said to have been circulated privately in the Royal Household, clarifying Kate’s status.

Despite being the future Queen herself, as a former commoner, the once Kate Middleton must apparently show reverence to the “blood princesses”.

This means Kate is expected to curtsey to those born royal, such as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie – both in public and in private.

The rule only applies when her husband, Prince William, is not present.

Royal observers suspect Kate will not mind the new rules as she is keen to please everybody, but Prince William may be less happy.

In his absence, Kate must also curtsey to other blue-blooded women in the Royal Household including Princess Anne and Princess Alexandra, the Queen’s cousin.

In the case of the Countess of Wessex, it is she who will have to curtsey to Kate – even though she is a generation older and is married to the Queen’s son, Edward.

According to new protocols, Kate Middleton is expected to curtsey to those born royal, such as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, both in public and in private

According to new protocols, Kate Middleton is expected to curtsey to those born royal, such as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, both in public and in private

The Earl of Wessex’s wife was once the second-highest ranking woman in the Royal Family because neither of the Queen’s other sons, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, were married.

This is effectively Sophie’s second “demotion”, having been pushed down the list in 2005 after Prince Charles married Camilla, and finding she was expected to curtsey to the Duchess of Cornwall.

The complex new rules come in a little-known edict entitled the Order Of Precedence Of The Royal Family To Be Observed At Court, which the Queen has updated to take into account Prince William’s wife.

When Prince William is with her, Kate does not need to bend the knee to either Beatrice or Eugenie.

But she must always curtsey to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, whether Prince William is present or not.

The thorny question of how Kate would fit into the UK’s first family has long been a subject of speculation among royal observers.

The Princess Royal, for example, is said to have refused to ever curtsey to Princess Diana or to Camilla, on the basis they were outsiders whereas she had given her whole adult life to royal service.

In an effort to avoid an epic battle of royal egos, the Queen drew up the first Order of Precedence in 2005, after Prince Charles married Camilla.

Its effect was to change the order along “blood lines” so that Princesses Anne, Beatrice, Eugenie and Alexandra – the granddaughter of George V – were all ahead of Camilla.

The etiquette, though arcane to some, is taken very seriously by the royals, who bow and curtsey to each other in public and behind closed doors.

The Order of Precedence affects other aspects of royal protocol too, such as who arrives first at an event. For example, Camilla was forced to wait in the drizzle outside the Guards Chapel, Windsor, for the arrival of Princess Anne at a memorial service in 2006, because Prince Charles had not accompanied her.

Royal historian Brian Hoey, an expert on court protocol, predicted when Prince William married Kate that: “Kate will take the rank of her husband, which means that when she’s at court, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie should curtsey to her. But I don’t think there’s a chance they will.”

While Prince William feels warmly towards his cousins, Beatrice and Eugenie, he’s conscious of the fact that they are lesser royals.

“As future King, he will wish to see them behaving correctly towards their future Queen – but their attitude is likely to be: <<Why should I? I was born royal – Kate wasn’t>>.”