With insiders saying Meghan Markle is “the one” for Prince Harry — and rumors of an engagement announcement quickening every day — many royal fans are wondering if Markle will spend Christmas with the royals this year.
Harry usually joins Prince Charles, Prince William and Kate Middleton to celebrate Christmas with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and the rest of the wider Windsor clan at the Queen’s Sandringham estate. The private event which ncludes exchanging presents on Christmas Eve and a big lunch as well as a trip to church for Christmas services on the big day.
If the Suits actress did join Harry, 33, and his relatives at the estate in Norfolk, it would be a first for the family in recent times — Kate wasn’t invited to the festivities in Christmas 2010, despite the couple revealing they were engaged in November. They wed in April 2011.
Royalty expert Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty, tells PEOPLE, that his “instincts” are that she would not be invited. “I really don’t think it will happen. Kate didn’t go under the same circumstances,” he says.
And even if Harry puts a ring on her finger before December, things might not be different. “There are some patterns that they seem to follow and I’m inclined to think that this is one of those,” Little adds.
But, unlike Los Angeles-native Markle, Kate had family to go to in England and the actress recently relocated to London after wrapping up filming on Suits in Toronto.
Perhaps Harry will have that in mind as he does like to run counter to established belief of royal protocol. Ken Wharfe, who was a close bodyguard to Harry and his mother Princess Diana, knows how the household works. But he agrees that times are changing. “In the absence of an engagement announcement it would be unusual for her to go,” he says. “But Harry is the sort of character who’s prepared to break tradition and the public quite like that.”
And a close source has told PEOPLE, “If Harry asks for something, the Queen would say yes as she adores him.”
Little believes even if an engagement has been forthcoming Markle might prefer to spend the holidays with her own family – as it would be the “last Christmas of freedom.”
Another sign that Markle might not go? Markle didn’t attend the Queen and Philip’s big 70th anniversary party at Windsor Castle earlier this week even though she was in London at the time.
Another insider says, “Christmas Day does seem sacrosanct. But, I suppose, if they’re engaged by then, all bets could be off.”