Meghan Markle is spending Christmas with the Queen at Sandringham. Does she know what she is letting herself in for? A cheeky QUENTIN LETTS imagines how the festive season might go for all their highnesses, royal and yet-to-be . . .
Royal protection officers are already jumpy on account of the nationwide anti-terror alert. So when they hear screams and ‘omigods!’ from the Sandringham dining room at 11pm on Christmas Eve, they race to the scene with their 9mm Glock 17 pistols primed.
They find Prince Harry’s bride-to-be in her Victoria’s Secret nightie, alone, in a state of distress.
‘You OK, Miss Markle?’
In the moonlit room, a whimpering Meghan points to the sideboard.
‘I came downstairs to put some presents under the tree,’ she sobs. ‘I’ve been so busy with wedding plans that I only just gotta round to wrapping things. Then I saw . . . that horrible thing!’
Meghan Markle is spending Christmas with the Queen at Sandringham. Does she know what she is letting herself in for? A cheeky QUENTIN LETTS imagines how the festive season might go for all their highnesses, royal and yet-to-be
The police officers follow her accusatory, acrylic false fingernail. ‘Oh, don’t worry about Fergie!’ laugh the coppers.
‘Fergie the pig. It’s a Sandringham tradition. Every Christmas, the chefs prepare a medieval boar’s head in jelly and place it the night before Christmas on the sideboard. It’s a great delicacy — named after Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of His Royal Highness the Duke of York.
‘You’ll be tucking into that after the Boss’s speech on telly tomorrow afternoon.’
Meghan is escorted back to her bedroom (a virginal 50 yards from Harry’s quarters).
Peace returns to the grand old house, but our young American heroine still has beastly nightmares. Although it makes a change from all those scary dreams she’s been having over previous nights about curtseying to Kate and ripping her skintight trousers in the process.
Kate has already given her sneery looks. These, she assumes, are because La Middleton was not invited to join Prince William at Sandringham in 2010 despite the couple having announced their engagement the month before Christmas. Indeed, Meghan has been told by Harry that Kate is convinced the Queen prefers Meghan.
That unfolding rivalry isn’t the only thing on her mind. Things had got off to a tricky start when Harry and Meghan arrived earlier that day, to be met at the entrance to the Norfolk estate by Princess Anne, who was walking her dogs.
They’d jumped all over Meghan, leaving muddy paw-prints on her white wrap coat (designed by Canadian brand Line The Label).
Trying to make small talk (something that’s never easy with Anne), Meghan gushed that she’s ‘sooo happy to be in Nor-folk’ — pronouncing the second syllable as in ‘folk’ music.
The Princess Royal shot her a withering look and told her: ‘It’s Norfolk as in ‘Nor-f*ck’!’
Secretly, Anne was pleased that her dogs ruined Meghan’s coat since she, like other members of the Royal Family, thought the American actress had been guilty of gross lèse-majesté when, interviewed on TV just after her engagement was announced, she claimed the Queen’s corgis had ‘taken to her straight away’, saying: ‘They were laying on my feet during tea!’
On that first evening, a light supper had been served — something monumentally nasty called Gentleman’s Relish, though at least it wasn’t a pig’s head.
Although Prince Andrew described it as ‘top grub, what!’, Meghan had found herself spitting out the toast into her hand — all that horrible gluten! — and tried to slip it to the corgis under the table. But even they wouldn’t touch it.
Home for Christmas! The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived at King’s Lynn station to kick off their traditional Christmas break, which they will spend on the estate at Sandringham
In previous years, the Queen has passed the time on the 1 hour 37 minute journey by browsing her iPad mini after being given a crash course by her grandsons William and Harry
Thrilled to be at the heart of the fabulous Windsor Dynasty Christmas knees-up, Meghan surreptitiously took a photo of the scene to upload on to her new secret Instagram account, to share with her friends in Hollywood. Except that she couldn’t get a wi-fi connection because BT broadband wasn’t working properly in rural ‘Norf*ck’.
If only they could have seen her here, she thought! What a house — just like Downton Abbey. (Even though she had to admit that everywhere she looked there seemed to be gumboots and tattered back-issues of Country Life and The Field. Not a single copy of Vogue or Variety.)
Suddenly, the corgis had surrounded her. One was on heat and kept jumping on Meghan’s shin in an amorous fashion, causing the Duke of York to roar with laughter and say: ‘Watch out, Harry! You’ve got a rival.’
After supper, she had resolved to calm herself with some yoga, and was deep into meditation, sitting on the Axminster carpet (by Royal Warrant) in the Tantric lotus position, when she spotted a mouse saunter out of the skirting board.
Now she was finally tucked up in bed, she was sure she could hear scratching behind the panelled walls of her bedroom. But it was hard to work out what it was over the noise of the East Anglian gale that was rattling the lead mullions, loose as old dowager’s teeth, behind the curtains.
If only Meghan hadn’t presumed Kate was teasing her when she suggested bringing bed-socks and a velveteen onesie. She’d thought Kate was playing a practical joke.
Now she understood why the royal ladies always wear fur coats. It isn’t for the walk to church for Mass. They’re needed all day — despite a log fire in every room.
Christmas morning, and breakfast time. Braised kidneys, fried bread, double-tar kippers and sausages as thick as Prince Charles’s fingers. As Bridget Jones would say: a calories nightmare.
Meghan — whose online lifestyle blog, The Tig, featured fussy, actressy food suggestions such as ‘white bean soup’ and ‘smoked salmon dill dip’ — tentatively tries to cut into a kidney.
Bride-to-be Meghan flashed her dazzling engagement ring from the front seat of Prince Harry’s Land Rover as she left the Queen’s annual Christmas lunch
It was the first time that Meghan will have met much of Harry’s family, and the invitation is a further sign that she is well and truly part of the royal establishment
But the knife hits the rubbery membrane and the offal shoots off the table — to be caught, perfectly, and gobbled by one of Princess Anne’s bull terriers.
The Queen has Bran Flakes in a Tupperware container with her crest on the plastic lid making clear these are not to be eaten by anyone else.
A glum-looking Kate sits with a glass of water and a single, unbuttered oatcake. Is that a halo round her head or just some Christmas tinsel?
Harry’s cousin Zara and her husband Mike Tindall had been ‘out on the raz’ at a nearby village pub last night and when they come wobbling down to breakfast (several minutes late), the footmen offer them two beakers containing a foul-looking brew.
‘They’re bullsh*ts,’ Harry murmurs into Meghan’s ear.
Only later does she learn that he’d said ‘bullshot’ — the name of a traditional pick-me-up of vodka, Worcester sauce (nothing to do with a P.G. Wodehouse character) and cold beef consomme.
Before church, Prince Philip performs his annual role as the family bookie, accepting wagers from anyone wishing to guess the length of the sermon given by ‘the Padre’ at St Mary Magdalene church. Prince Edward’s wife, Sophie Wessex, sidles up to Meghan. Giving her a packet of Fisherman’s Friend, she says: ‘Hide these in your muff.’
Utterly confused, again, Meghan later discovers that a muff is not what she thought but a traditional English, furry hand-warmer.
Helpfully, too, Harry hands her some coins — ‘With Granny’s head on them’ — for the church collection. After the service, Prince Philip announces that he’s won the sweepstake on the sermon’s length. Fourteen minutes. But then Zara claims she saw him in the vestry after Mass, ‘divvying up’ his winnings with the vicar. It was a stitch-up!
As they leave church, Meghan loses her footing and trips right in front of the Press photographers.
‘Oh sorry,’ says Kate. ‘Did I nearly trip you up?’
Meghan is convinced Kate did it deliberately in the hope she’d fall flat on her face.
Cheerful Kate gave a wave to crowds who had lined the streets outside Buckingham Palace in a hope to catch a glimpse of the royals on their departure
Despite these lingering chills, the mood at lunch is jolly.
Princess Anne’s husband, vice admiral Tim Laurence, blows a ship’s whistle and announces: ‘Here comes the goose!’
To which a smirking Harry says: ‘Oh, is Marie Christine here?’
He then explains to Meghan this family in-joke. ‘I was referring to Princess Michael of Kent. Her father was an SS officer in an elite Nazi force which ran concentration camps in the war.
‘We’re sure he taught his daughter to goose-step!’
There is a slight kerfuffle when the Christmas pudding arrives, burning like a bonfire because the chefs have used the late Queen Mum’s recipe (it contained almost more brandy than raisins).
Luckily, Prince Edward springs into action with a fire extinguisher. He is the family’s health and safety officer and takes his duties very seriously. He has a special armband and badge. Unlike most of the other multi-medalled males in the Royal family, it’s the only medal he has, poor chap.
Everyone troops into the telly room to watch Gan-Gan’s speech at 3pm as she addresses the nation and the Commonwealth (which makes Meghan feel quite at home since she’s been living in Canada for years).
A frustrated-looking Prince Charles mumbles quietly to himself: ‘Not that old cliche again!’ and ‘I could have done it so much better!’
Harry nips outside for a cigarette. On his return, he falls asleep. (Too much post-prandial port.)
When he awakes, he rudely says he wants to watch a re-run of Meghan’s TV legal drama Suits on the Dave channel.
Kate waspishly interjects, saying she prefers something more uplifting and ‘educational’, perhaps Alaskan Bush People on the Discovery channel — but then immediately realises this might lead to some highly off-colour comments from Prince Philip.
Both Charles and Camilla are expected at Sandringham for Christmas but the Queen’s Christmas lunch also gave them the opportunity to see some of their more distant family
Prince Charles looked dapper in a suit as he was joined by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall in the passenger seat
By this time, a tray of pickled walnuts is being passed round. Another ‘English delicacy’ that Meghan whispers to Harry are ‘dees-gusting’.
Mike Tindall throws several up into the air and catches them in his open mouth. ‘The perfect hangover cure,’ he says.
Next, it’s time for presents.
It’s a tradition that the Royals give each other joke presents.
One year, Kate Middleton gave Harry a ‘Grow Your Own Girlfriend’ kit. This year, in revenge, Harry gives Wills a Shane Warne Advanced Hair Studio hair transplant voucher — and rubs his palm vigorously round and round the top of his older brother’s head when he opens it.
Wills does not see the joke, and mutters something about what they do to gingers at the Tower.
Philip loves this part of Christmas. He’s already sent a servant to the World Of Fun in nearby Hunstanton, which calls itself ‘England’s Largest Joke Shop’, and now gives Meghan a set of plastic false teeth and an inflatable bust.
Flushing with embarrassment, she makes a gracious show of saying thank you. ‘I’ve watched some of those racy scenes in Suits,’ he says, winking at her. ‘Thought you might appreciate them.’
Philip, his eyes twinkling as she puts on the ‘fake bazookas’ (an expression that’s new to her), says she ‘isn’t bad for an American’ and is certainly more fun than ‘that bloody Mrs Clinton’, who had been to stay when her husband was U.S. President.
Kate gives Meghan a copy of Beauty Tips For Beginners and a set of bathroom scales.
Meghan’s big moment to shine comes after tea, when the family play charades and her acting skills put the others to shame — though there’s an embarrassing pause when Prince Andrew has to explain to her who Benny Hill was.
Festive spirit: Princesses Beatrice, right, and Eugenie, left, didn’t want the fun to end as they hopped across town for a night out in Soho after the Queen’s Christmas lunch
The Queen says they haven’t had such a natural thespian in the house since Tony Blair was Prime Minister.
No one ever sleeps much at Sandringham, partly because the upstairs rooms are so cold, partly because the Queen’s Piper gets going at dawn and keeps blowing his bagpipes until all the bedroom lights have been switched on.
Boxing Day, as ever, means the great outdoors.
It used to be fox-hunting but that’s no longer legal, so the family go pheasant-shooting.
Meghan is handed a small cosh to help humanely despatch any dying bird.
But is she tempted to use it on a rather larger quarry?
She’s still seething about the fact that she and her sister-in-law-to-be came downstairs earlier wearing exactly the same Barbour and cashmere outfits.
Meghan had meekly accepted that she was (for the time being) the junior partner and had changed into one of Harry’s old Army camouflage jackets he’d worn in Helmand. It left her absolutely freezing.
By the time they get back to the big house, she is numb to the bone and turns on the second bar of the electric fire in the drawing room.
But the Queen soon puts a stop to that. ‘Sorry, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer is keeping us on short beans,’ she explains.
Still, something good comes out of that.
Harry is so apologetic that he creeps along the corridor later that night and hops into Meghan’s bed. ‘Just to keep you warm,’ he whispers in her ear. ‘Just pretend I’m a corgi.’