The Queen will pay a moving tribute to her ‘beloved’ Prince Philip in tomorrow’s Christmas Day message while wearing the sapphire brooch she donned on her honeymoon in 1947 and again for her diamond wedding anniversary.
Facing her first festive season without her husband of 73 years, she has recorded a ‘particularly personal’ address to the nation.
Buckingham Palace has also announced that a service of thanksgiving for the life of the Duke of Edinburgh will take place at Westminster Abbey in the spring.
Sources said they ‘fully expected’ Harry and Meghan to be invited to the service, alongside the rest of the Royal Family. Many see it as a good way to ‘break the ice’ between the couple and their estranged relatives following their acrimonious departure from the UK and royal life.
It came as the Sussexes released the first image of their baby daughter Lilibet yesterday.
And Buckingham Palace also issued a moving photograph of the Queen sitting at her desk as she prepared for her Christmas address, which she recorded last week.
On her jacket is the sapphire chrysanthemum brooch which she wore in a photograph to mark her 73rd wedding anniversary with Philip in November last year.
The Queen will pay a moving tribute to her ‘beloved’ Prince Philip in tomorrow’s Christmas Day message, sat beside a framed picture of the royal couple (pictured). On her jacket is the sapphire chrysanthemum brooch which she wore in a photograph to mark her 73rd wedding anniversary with Philip in November last year
The framed photo was captured in 2007 at Broadlands country house in Hampshire to mark their diamond wedding anniversary. The Queen has had a lifelong passion for sapphires, thanks to her ‘beloved Papa’, who noticed the cornflower blue gemstones – said to signify love, purity and wisdom – matched the colour of his daughter’s eyes
The royal couple had spent their honeymoon at Broadlands country house in 1947 (pictured) and the Queen is wearing the same chrysanthemum brooch in her Christmas message this year
The Queen’s Jubilee gem: How a compliment from her father King George VI gave young Elizabeth a lifetime passion for sapphires
The Queen has had a lifelong passion for sapphires, thanks to her ‘beloved Papa’, who noticed the cornflower blue gemstones – said to signify love, purity and wisdom – matched the colour of his daughter’s eyes.
Throughout her life, King George VI often gave the gift of sapphires to his eldest daughter – from a bracelet for her 18th birthday in 1944 to a brooch in the shape of a flower basket to mark the birth of her first child, Prince Charles, in 1948.
She loved the suite of sapphires King George VI gave her as a wedding present in 1947 so much that she later had a bracelet and tiara made to match – prompting Noel Coward to write of a film premiere: The Queen looked luminously lovely and was wearing the largest sapphires I have ever seen.’
Today, the suite of sapphires is reserved for what the Queen calls ‘big dressing’ for formal occasions such as State Banquets, while the necklace and earrings are a firm favourite for family occasions.
Other precious gems in her priceless collection include Prince Albert’s sapphire brooch, given to Queen Victoria on the eve of their wedding in 1840 and worn by every queen since. and a sapphire brooch left to her by Queen Mary that once belonged to the Empress Marie of Russia, mother of the murdered Tsar Nicholas II.
The Queen has had a lifelong passion for sapphires, thanks to her ‘beloved Papa’, who noticed the cornflower blue gemstones – said to signify love, purity and wisdom – matched the colour of his daughter’s eyes.
The 95-year-old monarch has not been seen in public since early October following a bout of ill-health.
The picture was taken in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, accompanied by a single, framed picture of her and Philip captured in 2007 at Broadlands country house in Hampshire to mark their diamond wedding anniversary. The couple had spent their honeymoon there in 1947.
For her Christmas address, the Queen is seen wearing an embossed wool shift dress in ‘Christmas red’, by her personal assistant and senior dresser Angela Kelly as well as a sapphire chrysanthemum brooch which she has worn during several key moments of her long and happy life with Philip.
The then-Princess Elizabeth first sported it for a photocall on her honeymoon, and she also wore it during the couple’s diamond wedding celebrations.
An intensely private woman, the Queen has touched upon her devastating loss on a handful of occasions since Philip died in April at the age of 99. She has also given permission for Buckingham Palace to release a small number of treasured images of the prince.
But tomorrow’s message – to be broadcast at 3pm on both BBC1 and ITV – is likely to be her most intimate yet.
Meghan, 40, has not set foot in the UK since March last year.
She and Harry made a series of stinging accusations against the Royal Family, most notably in March this year in their interview with Oprah Winfrey, which led the Queen to issue an unprecedented plea to deal with their issues privately as a family.
The monarch also pointedly made clear that ‘recollections may vary’ on some of their more egregious claims, including accusations of racism.
Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie, has not seen his great-grandmother, grandfather, uncle and cousins since he was a baby, while Lilibet has not met them at all.
Despite the potential rapprochement, there is still likely to be concern over Harry’s forthcoming ‘tell-all’ memoir, which is due to be published next autumn following his grandmother’s platinum jubilee.
The date of the service of thanksgiving has yet to be confirmed and some flexibility will be incorporated into the arrangements to allow for any problems caused by the Covid pandemic.
But the guest list is set to include family, friends, dignitaries and representatives of many charities and organisations with which Philip was associated.
Few will forget the sight of the grieving Queen sitting alone and clad in a black mask at St George’s Chapel for her husband’s funeral service
The Archbishop of Canterbury had tears in his eyes as he recalled the funeral this week, saying it is a ‘very emotional memory’ for him
12 days of a Christmas classic from Charles and Camilla
Charles and Camilla are to play starring roles on social media tomorrow for a very special literary event.
Together with celebrity guests, they have recorded extracts from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The 12-day event will start with the prince reading Stave One of the festive classic.
Other contributors include Miriam Margolyes, Sir Derek Jacobi, Simon Callow, Paterson Joseph, Stephen Mangan and Bridgette Amofah.
The event has been organised in conjunction with the Charles Dickens Museum as part of Camilla’s successful Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room on Instagram, which started last January.
Inspired by the success of the reading lists she shared during the pandemic, it offers a selection of book recommendations four times a year as well as insight from authors.
Camilla has created it to be an online community space for book lovers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. In a trailer for the readings, the future king and his wife can be seen sitting by the Christmas tree at Clarence House, their official London residence, with a crackling log fire behind them.
Camilla says: ‘A Christmas Carol is a story which in so many ways began Christmas as we know it today. ‘It follows themes of love, kindness, compassion and tolerance and it speaks to the heart. I hope you can join us on this literary journey. May it haunt your houses pleasantly and may we wish each and every one of you a very happy Christmas.’
Charles adds, echoing a famous line from the novella: ‘Join us over these 12 Days of Christmas as we, with a little help from some friends, read from Charles Dickens’ wonderful story. God bless us, every one.’
The future king is known to be ‘hugely proud’ of his wife’s success with her Reading Room, which has already amassed 124,000 followers on Instagram.
Few will forget the sight of the grieving Queen sitting alone and clad in a black mask at St George’s Chapel for her husband’s funeral service because of Covid restrictions.
The Archbishop of Canterbury had tears in his eyes as he recalled the moment this week.
‘I remember the Queen by herself. I remember the moments of silence,’ he said. ‘For me, like so much that I see with Her Majesty, it’s her personal example.
‘I know that after the service, she was meant to go and rest – she’s in her 90s of course – but she saw some distant cousins who’d come from a long way away.
‘So before she went to rest, she insisted on going to talk to them to make them feel welcome.
‘This is a person whose whole life says – and it’s such a message in this crisis – ‘It’s not about me, it’s about others’.
‘It is a very emotional memory. It still is because I look at that and I think what an extraordinary gift Her Majesty is to this world, particularly at times of crisis. The humour. The generosity. The selflessness.’
Earlier this week the Queen decided to cancel her traditional Christmas celebrations at Sandringham, her Norfolk estate, as a ‘precautionary measure’ due to rising coronavirus cases.
She will instead mark the festive season with a smaller family event at Windsor Castle.
But there was good news yesterday when Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall confirmed that they will spend Christmas Day with her. Princess Anne and her husband, Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, have been ruled out because of Covid.
But the Duke and Duchess of York, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children, and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester are all expected to be present. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be spending Christmas at Anmer Hall in Norfolk with their children and other members of the Middleton family with the Queen’s blessing. It is likely, however, that they visited her at Windsor before they left.
Despite the loss of her husband, the acrimony with Harry and Meghan and Prince Andrew’s ongoing legal woes, the Queen has experienced some good news this year.
She welcomed four new great-grandchildren to the family – August to Princess Eugenie, Lucas to Zara Tindall, Lilibet to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and Sienna to Princess Beatrice.
Mystery still surrounds the health problems she has suffered following an overnight stay in hospital in October for ‘precautionary tests’. She also missed Remembrance Sunday due to a sprained back.
First look at baby Lilibet: Harry and Meghan release Christmas card showing their baby daughter and even reveal Archie’s face
By Siofra Brennan and Jessica Green for MailOnline
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have finally shared the first photo of their daughter Lilibet Diana, six months after she was born, for their Christmas card.
The family image shows Meghan, 40, holding up their giggling daughter, while smiling Harry, 37, looks on with his arm around their two-year-old son Archie in the portrait by Alexi Lubomirski, who shot the couple’s engagement photos and the official family portraits on their wedding day.
Archie, who looks just like his dad with a shock of red hair, is casually dressed in jeans like the rest of the family, and his face is on show. After his first birthday, Harry and Meghan stopped sharing photos with his face, and only released pictures of the youngster from behind.
The Sussexes, who are currently residing in a $14.7million mansion in Montecito, released the card to announce they’ve made a donation to several charities, including an organisation that supports Afghan families left behind after the US withdrawal and Paid Leave For All, in line with the Duchess’ recent campaigning for a paid family leave law for all Americans.
‘This year we welcomed out daughter, Lilibet, to the world. Archie made us a ‘Mama and Papa’ and Lili made us a family,’ their message read. ‘As we look forward to 2022 we have made donations on your behalf to several organizations that honor and protect families – from those being relocated from Afghanistan to American famiilies in need of paid parental leave.’
It comes as the couple – who used the American ‘Happy Holidays’ phrase rather than the British ‘Merry Christmas’ in their card – prepare to spend their third festive period outside of the UK, and away from Prince Harry’s family.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have finally shown the first photo of their daughter Lilibet Diana, six months after she was born, in their family Christmas card (pictured)
The Sussexes, who are currently residing in a $14.7million mansion in Montecito, released the card (pictured) to announce they’ve made a donation to several charities, including an organisation that supports Afghan families left behind after the US withdrawal and Paid Leave For All
In the photograph, Harry, Meghan and Archie all opt for a low-key look in denim jeans, with the Duchess teaming hers with a navy jumper, while the Duke wears a blue shirt and his son a white one. The couple’s daughter giggles while wearing a white ensemble.
The only previous picture of Lilibet (centre) that’s been seen is a very grainy black and white photo on Meghan’s desk during her 40th birthday video call with Melissa McCarthy
The look was decidedly casual for the Duchess, who is known for her love of designer clothes and expensive personalised jewellery.
Today’s card marks a change for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who have hidden their children’s faces in recent photographs.
Archie has rarely been seen since the couple stepped back as senior royals in March last year, with the most recent picture of him released to mark his second birthday this May showing him with his back to the camera.
During the Oprah Winfrey interview and Prince Harry’s mental health documentary, he made an appearance but royal fans were only be able to get a glimpse of the youngster’s face.
It also marks the first time royal fans have been able to see Lilibet’s face. Meghan is thought to have revealed a grainy first photograph of her second child after a framed picture of Prince Harry kissing a newborn baby took pride of place on her desk in a video for her 40th birthday.
Three further black and white photos could be seen in a connected frame in front of this, with the central one seeming to show Harry kissing a baby and one on the right potentially showing Meghan holding a young child.
So just when HAVE Harry and Meghan shared a glimpse of Archie and Lilibet with desperate royal fans?
8 May 2019 – Prince Harry and Meghan Markle appear in photo-call for Archie at Windsor Castle.
When asked to expose more of their baby’s face to the cameras, the Duchess laughed as Harry joked: ‘He’s already got a little bit of facial hair as well, wonderful.’
6 July 2019 – Meghan and Harry hold private christening for Archie and release two images of the event on Sussex Royal. It offers royal fans their first real glimpse at Archie
10 July 2019 – Meghan cradles Archie in her arms as they join Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at a polo match
September 25 2019 – Meghan and Prince Harry appear in front of cameras with Archie as they meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah at the Tutu foundation in Cape Town
24 December 2019 – Meghan and Harry release their holiday card for the year, with their son taking centre stage in the black-and-white snap
31 December 2019 – Duke and Duchess also share a snap of Prince Harry cradling Archie during their ‘break’ in Canada on Vancouver Island on their Instagram page
6 May 2020 – Meghan and Archie appear in a video for Save the Children to mark youngster’s first birthday where Duchess reads Duck or Goose
23 December 2020 – Duke and Duchess release an illustrated Christmas card in which Archie’s face is not visible
8 March 2021 – Archie appears briefly in Meghan and Harry’s Oprah Winfrey interview as he runs along beach, but his face is barely visible
9 March 2021 – Meghan and Harry share a snap cuddling with Archie in their garden – but his face is buried in Meghan’s shoulder
6 May 2021 – Meghan and Harry release photograph of Archie from behind for his 2nd birthday
21 May 2021 – Archie, from behind, appears on swings with Prince Harry in The Me You You Can’t See documentary
6 June 2021 – Meghan releases her children’s book the bench, in which both her children are illustrated
7 June 2021 – Meghan and Harry announce their daughter Lilibet has been born, but do not release any photographs
4 August 2021 – Meghan releases video to mark her 40th birthday, in which there appears to be a blurry image of Harry kissing a newborn in the background, thought to be Lilibet. There are also several blurry images of Archie.
18 November 2021 – Meghan shares another picture of Archie from behind as she appears on The Ellen Show
23 December 2021 – The Duke and Duchess share an image of their family, including Archie and Lilibet, in which their faces are all visible to the camera
Alexi Lubomirski, the photographer behind the Sussexes’ Christmas card, took to Instagram today to share his work.
He wrote in the caption: ‘The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Archie and Lilibet. This is one of those rare and special projects, that one is fortunate enough to be a part of.
‘To be able to continue the story of this family whom I first photographed as an engaged couple, then on the day of their wedding, as a married couple and now seeing their love manifest into two beautiful children, has been a delightful honour.
‘Anyone who has seen my #allloveseries, will know that one of the greatest joys I receive from photography, is when I am able to photograph ‘love’ in some form or another.
‘To be trusted by your subjects enough, to open themselves up and have their connection documented and translated into an image, is one of the greatest gifts a photographer can have.
‘This day with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex was one such joyous experience, and one that I feel extremely privileged to have been invited to capture. X’
Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s second child, was born on June 4 in Santa Barbara, California, at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, and is eighth in line to the throne.
She was named after the Queen’s childhood nickname, while her middle name Diana was in tribute to Harry’s late mother. The baby weighed 7lbs 11oz.
No photographs of Lilibet were released following her birth, unlike her brother Archie, who had a photocall at Windsor Castle in 2019.
The charities Harry and Meghan have donated to ‘on your behalf’ include Paid Leave for All, a national US campaign fighting to bring paid family and medical leave for all working people.
Meghan, who has largely been on parental leave since the birth of her daughter in June, has been lobbying for US Congress to consider making paid family leave law for all Americans, citing her own experience as a new working mother.
In October Meghan wrote a letter to US congressmen Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer asking for paid parental leave, which said: ‘I’m not an elected official, and I’m not a politician. I’m writing to you at this deeply important time – as a mom – to advocate for paid leave.’
The 1,030-word letter asked the two Democratic leaders to consider her plea ‘on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry’.
The Duchess then caused controversy by cold-calling US senators on their private phones and using her royal title to urge them to vote in favour of the legislation.
Amid her lobbying, the duchess depicted humble beginnings, saying that her family struggled when she was young – despite her well-documented middle class upbringing in which she attended private primary and secondary schools on her Emmy award-winning lighting director father’s $200,000-a-year salary.
And she now lives in a $14million sprawling mansion in Montecito, California, complete with designer touches. She has also signed a series of lucrative deals with Spotify and Netflix thought to be worth well over $150million.
‘I grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler,’ Meghan wrote.
‘I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this because even at five bucks, eating out was something special, and I felt lucky. I started working (at the local frozen yogurt shop) at the age of 13.
‘I waited tables, babysat, and piecemealed jobs together to cover odds and ends,’ Meghan said.
Royal fans expressed their annoyance over not seeing Archie’s face again after Meghan Markle and Prince Harry released a new picture of their son to celebrate his second birthday (pictured) in May this year
Last year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex opted to share an illustrated Christmas card – leading to some disappointed fans calling for the couple to show Archie’s face (pictured)
This photo of a pregnant Meghan in March 2021, was another example of when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex decided to not show Archie’s face to the public
However, in 2019, the couple appeared more than happy to show their son’s face, making it centre stage in their festive greetings image
On his mental health series The Me You Can’t See, co-created with Oprah Winfrey, Harry showed several new images of his two-year-old son, seemingly showing his front (pictured left), while on Ellen, Meghan decided to share one showing Archie’s back (pictured right)
Prince Harry and Archie pictured in Canada in 2019. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s son’s face can be clearly seen in the photograph, shared in an end-of-year review by the couple in a 2019 clip
However, she failed to mention the $750,000 California state lottery win her father scooped in 1990, which funded her secondary education at $9,412-a-semester Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles.
Revealed: The charities Harry and Meghan have donated to ‘on your behalf’
Founded in 2010, Team Rubicon is a disaster response non-profit, using the skills and experiences of veterans with first responders to develop emergency response teams. It has deployed across the US and across the World to provide humanitarian aids to areas impacted by disasters.
Welcome.US is an organisation that provide supports to welcome refugees in the US or helping resettle. It counts several high profile chairmen and chairwomen, including George W. Bush, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton.
Human First Coalition
This non-profit is led by volunteers and has been helping American citizens and allies following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. It has been working hard to provide shelter for citizens who have been left behind following American forces’ withdrawal from the country this summer. It has also been focusing efforts on offering safe passage into the US for those who are still in Afghanistan.
This international organisation has been providing mental health and psychological support for refugees and victims of humanitarian crisis all around the world.
Paid Leave for All
A national US campaign fighting to bring paid family and medical leave for all working people. Meghan wore a letter in October advocating for paid leave. The extraordinary 1,030-word letter – given to supportive media to share – asked the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and the Majority Leader in the US Senate Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, to consider her plea ‘on behalf of my family, Archie and Lili and Harry’.
Pl+us is another campaign advocating for paid leave in the US. It was founded by Katie Bethell, who was named as one of the World greatest leaders by Fortuna Magazine. It works in partnership with employees, employers, consumers and investors. So far, it has won paid leave for nearly 8million working for companies like Walmart, Starbucks, CVS and more.
Meghan also studied a private primary school – Hollywood’s Little Red Schoolhouse nursery, which she attended from the age of two.
The primary school now costs between $20,000 and $28,300-a-year, and was paid for by her father Thomas and her airline steward mother Doria’s salaries.
She went on to study at Northwestern, a college in Illinois, that would have cost $24,000-$28,000-a-year for tuition when Meghan studied there from 1999-2003.
She later spoke about the letter, which included the claim her family were impoverished even though her father was an Emmy award-winning lighting director and she was educated at private school, on Ellen.
Last month Meghan told The Ellen Show: ‘I think that people truly forget, or don’t even know that in this country, it’s one of the only six countries in the entire world and the only wealthy nation in the entire world that does not mandate and have a federal paid leave programme.
‘Everybody knows, especially if you have had a child and even if you haven’t, you know how hard it is and how critical it is in those first few weeks if not months to be together as a family.
‘And the fact that we don’t offer that here is something that now as a mom of two, I will do everything that I can to make sure that we can implement that for people.’
Last year, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex opted to share an illustrated Christmas card – leading to some disappointed fans calling for the couple to show Archie’s face.
In the 2020 festive greeting, the couple were seen playing with Archie in the garden of their £11million ($15million) home in Montecito, along with dogs Pula and Guy. The card was a drawing of a photograph taken by Meghan’s mother Doria.
It was released via Mayhew, the London-based animal charity for which Meghan is a patron and read: ‘Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.’
A tiny Christmas tree in the picture was decorated with ornaments selected by Archie. The Mayhew tweeted the image along with a thank you for an undisclosed personal donation from the royals.
The card offered a sneak peek into the family’s home and Archie’s playhouse. A spokesman for the couple at the time said: ‘The original photo of the family was taken at their home earlier this month by the Duchess’s mother.
‘The small Christmas tree, including the homemade ornaments and other decorations, were selected by Archie, and the tree will be replanted after the holidays.’
Mayhew, which is based in Kensal Green, West London, said on its website that the money would help it ‘weather the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and enable us to reach the animals and people who are struggling’.
Caroline Yates, Mayhew’s chief executive, said: ‘We are delighted to have the Duchess of Sussex as our patron, and she has shone a huge light on our community-based animal welfare work over the last two years.
‘We were especially honoured to recently receive a personal donation from the Duke and Duchess, which will enable us to help even more cats, dogs and pet owners in need over this tough winter period.’
Family affair! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released their Christmas card recently, pictured. The family were photographed on a secret trip to Jordan this year
Supportive husband! Prince Charles chose a somewhat unusual image for his Christmas card, featuring himself and the Duchess of Cornwall at Royal Ascot. The image shows Charles helping his wife with her face mask, in a nod to the ongoing Covid pandemic
Seasons greetings! Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex chose a smiling photo from a visit to Scotland for their 2021 Christmas card. The Earl and Countess of Wessex, known as the Earl and Countess of Forfar in Scotland, are pictured smiling at Forfar Golf Course in June, above
Who is photographer Alexi Lubomirski?
New York based fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski is famed for his portraits of the Hollywood elite, and was chosen to shoot Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement photos and the official family portraits on their wedding day.
The father-of-two, who was born in the UK, was a protégé of Mario Testino who was beloved by Harry’s mother Princess Diana.
The star photographer is also a prince of the Polish House of Lubomirski, whose royal lineage stretches back 500 years on his father’s side and gives him the title: ‘His Serene Highness’.
Alexi is a firm favorite with celebrities, and has shot cover stars such as Julianne Moore, Angelina Jolie, Demi Moore, Beyoncé, Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lopez, Selma Hayek, Katy Perry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston, Emilia Clarke, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Scarlett Johansson.
New York based photographer Alexi Lubomirski (above)
The photographer was born in England to a Peruvian/English mother and a Polish/French father and at the age of eight, he moved to Botswana with his mother and English stepfather.
He was introduced to star photographer Mario Testino and joined him in Paris as his assistant for four years and has worked regularly for Vogue and Harpers Bazaar.
He has also published books including ‘Princely advice for a happy life’ – a tribute to his two sons – and ‘diverse beauty’ about models not usually used in fashion magazines and campaigns.
All proceeds from his books are donated to the charity Concern Worldwide – which fights world poverty – of which Alexi is an ambassador.
The photographer had never done an engagement shoot before taking on the prestigious commission from Harry and Meghan.
‘It was one of the easiest, most joyful jobs because they were so deliciously in love,’ he told E! News.
He added that there was no effort needed to capture the couple in a variety of romantic poses, after telling them to just be themselves while he took their pictures.
‘It was nutty. It was a very surreal end to the year because it came out of nowhere,’ he recalled.
‘I think one of Meghan’s friends saw me on Instagram that I was in England during the announcement of the engagement.
‘I was told later that this person said to her, ‘You should meet Alexi. He’s great. You’d love him’, and that was it.’
In a statement released after the engagement shoot, Alexi said: ‘It was an incredible honour to be asked to document this wonderful event, but also a great privilege to be invited to share and be a witness to this young couple’s love for one another.
‘I cannot help but smile when I look at the photos that we took of them, such was their happiness together’.
It comes after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex donated to the first ever Annual Montecito Holiday Car Parade, which took place in their local California neighbourhood this week.
Prince Harry and Meghan showed their support for their new hometown as they joined a select few donors in supporting the festive car procession.
The couple, who live in an impressive $14.7 million mansion in the exclusive neighbourhood with Archie, 2, and Lilibet, seven months, got into the Christmas spirit for the parade, which was themed ‘holiday magic’.
According to the Montecito Journal, brightly-lit cars decorated with garlands, tinsel and wreath made their way down the parade route, watched by locals as Santa Claus handed out candy from a truck complete with Christmas star.
The local paper wrote: ‘ As the merriment still lingers in the air, here’s to a new Montecito holiday tradition! Thanks to the many parade sponsors including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle who were first to donate’.
This week Meghan was seen Christmas shopping in Montecito at some of her favorite stores, including nearby Pierre LaFond & Co and kids’ clothing boutique Poppy.
The mother-of-two looked stylish in a Massimo Dutti wool coat, Tamara Mellon boots, Bottega Veneta clutch, LeSpecs Air Heart sunglasses, along with a brown beanie and blue face mask.
Meghan was said to be out for around an hour with her bodyguard, and was seen carrying a few shopping bags before returning home.
Meanwhile, other members of the royal family, including Prince Harry’s father, Prince Charles, and his brother Prince William, have released their Christmas cards for 2021 in the run-up to the holidays
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their three children were photographed on a secret trip to Jordan earlier this year.
Kate looks glowing in a khaki dress, while Princess Charlotte looks all grown up as she perches on a stool in a gingham dress from Mango. Prince George beams as he poses in a £14.95 camo t-shirt from GAP and grey shorts.
Meawhile, Prince Louis sits cross-legged at the front in a stripey £32 polo shirt from Rachel Riley – a bigger version of the top Prince George wore from the brand during an official visit to Taronga Zoo in Sydney when he was nine-months-old, as well as laceless slip-on sneakers by Hampton Canvas, which have been worn by both his older brother and sister.
It’s not been revealed exactly when the family travelled to Jordan, but the visit is likely to have taken place in the later part of the year when travel restrictions were relaxed.
Jordan holds a special significance for the family because the Duchess of Cambridge spent part of her childhood in the country where her father worked as a flight dispatcher for British Airways, and when William visited the Middle East in 2018 on an official tour, he spoke of their intention to come back with their children in the future.
The Cambridges were not the only royals to share their Christmas card, with Prince Charles releasing an image of himself fixing the Duchess of Cornwall’s face mask at the races for his festive offering.
The picture, taken on the second day of Royal Ascot in June, shows the heir-to-the-throne, 72, helping his wife, 73, to adjust her face mask beside the racetrack.
The snap, which will be the Prince of Wales’ festive greeting this year, seems especially fitting in light of new restrictions requiring people in England to wear masks on public transport, shops and indoor public spaces such as post offices, theatres and hairdressers.
But it also depicts Charles as a loving husband to Camilla, whom he married in April 2005.
Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex chose a smiling photo from a visit to Scotland for their 2021 Christmas card.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex, known as the Earl and Countess of Forfar in Scotland, are pictured smiling at Forfar Golf Course in June.
A snap of the card was shared on Instagram by Shutterstock royal photographer Tim Rooke, who took the photo.
In the photo, Sophie, 56, is seen beaming in a navy blazer and navy dress printed with a vibrant floral design.
She is holding a light blue clutch bag and finished the look with a pair of drop earrings.
Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will NOT spend Christmas with the Queen: Kate and William will be in Norfolk with members of Middleton family while Charles and Camilla visit Her Majesty at Windsor
By Laurence Dollimore for MailOnline
Prince William and Kate Middleton will not be joining the Queen for Christmas this year, it has been revealed.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will instead be spending the festive season in Norfolk, where they will be joined by some members of the Middleton family.
They will also be joined by their three children, George, eight, Charlotte, six, and Louis, three.
It is believed they will all spend the holiday season at Anmer Hall, in William and Kate’s home on the Sandringham estate.
It is not known which members of Kate’s family will be staying with them.
The Cambridges have not celebrated Christmas with the Middletons since 2016, when William, Kate, George and Charlotte visited a church in Bucklebury.
And although they will not be with the Queen on Christmas Day, William and Kate will see her over the Christmas period, reports the Mirror.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are also remaining stateside for the holidays, meaning the Queen will not yet meet her new granddaughter Lilibet.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be spending the festive season in Norfolk, where they will be joined by some members of the Middleton family (pictured in March 2020 with Camila, Prince Charles and the Queen)
It is believed William and Kate (pictured) will all spend the holiday season at Anmer Hall, in their home on the Sandringham estate
It comes as the Queen is facing her first Christmas without her husband Prince Philip (pictured together centre) in 77 years, following his death in April this year
However she will be joined on Christmas Day by Prince Charles and Camilla at Windsor Castle, in a boost for the monarch after Princess Anne had to drop out.
They are likely to be joined by Prince Andrew and his former wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, plus their two daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.
The Earl and Countess of Wessex are also expected to be there, with their children, James, Viscount Severn, and Lady Louise – but Anne will not be attending.
Clarence House confirmed this morning that the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall would join the 95-year-old monarch at Windsor this Saturday.
The plans of Charles and Camilla had been unclear until this morning – and they spent last Christmas at Highgrove, their country estate in Gloucestershire.
But a Clarence House spokesman confirmed today: ‘The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will be with Her Majesty The Queen on Christmas Day.’
It comes after the Queen received a festive blow after her son-in-law Sir Timothy Laurence contracted Covid, meaning neither he nor Anne could join her.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall stand next to the stunning Christmas tree at Clarence House for a photograph posted on their official Instagram account last Friday
The Queen with Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwll in Braemar in September 2019
Princess Anne and Sir Timothy Laurence, pictured at Harry and Meghan’s wedding at Windsor in 2018. Both will not be with the Queen on Christmas Day after Sir Timothy contracted Covid
Who is expected to join the Queen for lunch on Christmas Day now?
- Prince Charles
- Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
- Prince Andrew, Duke of York
- Sarah, Duchess of York
- Princess Beatrice
- Princess Eugenie
- Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex
- Sophie, Countess of Wessex
- James, Viscount Severn
- Lady Louise Windsor
The Queen had already decided to cancel her pre-Christmas dinner at Windsor for her extended family this week as a result of rising coronavirus cases.
And on Monday it was revealed that she had also decided to scrap plans to travel to her beloved Sandringham country estate in Norfolk for Christmas.
Sources indicated that the Queen felt it was ‘too difficult’ for her family and staff to move between residences safely bearing in mind pleas from the Government for the public to be cautious.
One said: ‘Her Majesty always leads by example.’
Instead she plans to spend her Christmas quietly at Windsor, her first without husband Philip.
Several family members are expected to be with the Queen, Charles and Camilla – including Prince Andrew and his family and the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children.
But she had also hoped her daughter Anne, who she has a close relationship with, would be able to join her.
Instead Anne will be isolating with her husband at Gatcombe Park, their Gloucestershire estate.
2019 — The Queen leaves St Mary Magdalene’s Church after a service on December 25, 2019
2018 — The Queen arrives at St Mary Magdalene’s Church in Norfolk on Christmas Day in 2018
2017 — The Queen leaves St Mary Magdalene’s Church after the Christmas Day service in 2017
A senior royal source confirmed last night: ‘Admiral Sir Tim has tested positive for Covid and is following all the appropriate rules. Christmas Day at Windsor will not be possible.’
Sir Tim is understood to have tested positive early this week, meaning that under the new seven-day rule he and the princess could travel to see the Queen after the weekend.
She usually hosts around 20 to 30 family members at her Norfolk home, with crowds of wellwishers turning out to watch the royals walk to the Christmas Day service at the church on the estate.
Sources told the Mail that the Queen, who normally stays in Norfolk until early February, could yet travel there in January.