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Meghan Markle joins royals for the Queen’s Christmas lunch

The royal family were snapped arriving at Buckingham Palace today for the Queen's Christmas lun..

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  • The royal family were snapped arriving at Buckingham Palace today for the Queen's Christmas lunch
  • The annual celebration is a royal tradition and allows the monarch to catch up with extended family members
  • Prince Harry was accompanied by his glamorous fiancée Meghan Markle as he swept up to the gates
  • Queen took unusual step of inviting Meghan to join royal Christmas celebrations before the couple wed

By Martha Cliff for MailOnline

Published: 07:40 EST, 20 December 2017 | Updated: 15:36 EST, 20 December 2017

It seems that Prince Harry's radiant bride-to-be Meghan Markle has been well and truly welcomed into the royal fold, after she joined the extended family at Buckingham Palace for the Queen's annual pre-Christmas lunch on Wednesday.

The actress has followed in the footsteps of the Duchess of Cambridge – who made the guest list for the first time in 2010, as Prince William's then fiancée – in securing an invitation to the event ahead of her marriage to Prince Harry next May.

However, unlike Kate, Meghan will also join her husband-to-be at the Queen's Sandringham Estate on December 25th – an unprecedented step for someone who is yet to become an official member of the royal family.

The Duchess of Cambridge did not spend Christmas at Sandringham until she and William were man and wife.

Although Harry's immediate family has already had the chance to get to know his bride-to-be, Meghan met much of the extended clan for the first time today at the Queen's Christmas get-together.

A cherished royal tradition, the lunch at the palace provides the monarch with the opportunity to spend time with those relatives who don't join her at the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk on the 25th, as well as close members of the family.

And it seems that Meghan's debut, which comes after she wowed crowds when she joined Prince Harry on a public walkabout in Nottingham following their engagement announcement, was a success – with the 36-year-old unable to wipe the smile from her face as she left the palace at around 3.30pm.

The actress was pictured smiling and flashing her dazzling engagement ring as her fiance drove her back to their home at Kensington Palace following the festive lunch.

Also at the lunch today were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, who will travel to Norfolk for further celebrations, as were Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

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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 lunchBride-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

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

Today 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 establishmentToday 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

Today 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

Following shortly behind were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with a sleepy looking Princess Charlotte in the back Following shortly behind were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with a sleepy looking Princess Charlotte in the back 

Following shortly behind were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with a sleepy looking Princess Charlotte in the back

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 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 

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

Be a style superhero in a Zara cape like Kate

The Cambridges were spotted at Buckingham Palace today for the Queen’s traditional Christmas lunch. With William driving his family, Kate sat upfront, whilst George and Charlotte were in the back with their nanny.

Kate is a pro when it comes to dressing her bump and has even found the perfect outerwear solution in this Zara cape which is great choice thanks to its roomy silhouette. We're also loving how Kate added a little furry collar giving her look a glam edge.

The good news is this cape is still available to buy and can be yours for $149. Follow the link on the right to get your hands on it now, or for more choice check out our roundup of alternatives below.

* PRICES MAY NOT BE AS ADVERTISED…NOW GET ONE LIKE ITPrince William also appeared to be in a festive mood, smiling to the crowds as he made his way back to Kensington Palace Prince William also appeared to be in a festive mood, smiling to the crowds as he made his way back to Kensington Palace 

Prince William also appeared to be in a festive mood, smiling to the crowds as he made his way back to Kensington Palace

Charlotte looked adorable in a festive red cardiganCharlotte looked adorable in a festive red cardiganShe had her hair tied in a crimson ribbon in honour of the occasionShe had her hair tied in a crimson ribbon in honour of the occasion

Charlotte looked adorable in a festive red cardigan and she had her hair tied in a crimson ribbon in honour of the occasion

Prince George did away with his coat for the journey back showcasing a sweet Christmas jumper underneath Prince George did away with his coat for the journey back showcasing a sweet Christmas jumper underneath 

Prince George did away with his coat for the journey back showcasing a sweet Christmas jumper underneath

The four-year-old could be seen pulling funny faces in the back of his car under the watchful eye of his nanny Maria BorralloThe four-year-old could be seen pulling funny faces in the back of his car under the watchful eye of his nanny Maria Borrallo

The four-year-old could be seen pulling funny faces in the back of his car under the watchful eye of his nanny Maria Borrallo

Meghan Markle is joining Prince Harry and members of the royal family for the Queen's annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace todayMeghan Markle is joining Prince Harry and members of the royal family for the Queen's annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace today

Meghan Markle is joining Prince Harry and members of the royal family for the Queen's annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace today

The event provides the actress with the opportunity to meet with some of Harry's more distant relatives before their weddingThe event provides the actress with the opportunity to meet with some of Harry's more distant relatives before their wedding

The event provides the actress with the opportunity to meet with some of Harry's more distant relatives before their wedding

Meghan is wearing a £300 dress from Self-Portrait, a brand which the Duchess of Cambridge is known to be fan Meghan is wearing a £300 dress from Self-Portrait, a brand which the Duchess of Cambridge is known to be fan 

Meghan is wearing a £300 dress from Self-Portrait, a brand which the Duchess of Cambridge is known to be fan

For the likes of the Queen's cousin Prince Michael of Kent, or his son Lord Frederick Windsor, today's lunch could well have been their first meeting with their new – and already most famous – family member.

Today marked the start of the whirlwind of events that will make up Meghan's first royal Christmas, which will also see her join her soon-to-be in-laws as they walk to the Christmas Day church service on the Sandringham Estate, and being hosted by the monarch for a turkey lunch.

On Wednesday Meghan was whisked to the palace by her Prince, who drove them to the event in a Land Rover Discovery.

The bride-to-be opted for a £300 high necked lace dress from Self-Portrait for the festive lunch, accessorised with a pair of diamond drop earrings.

Among the first to arrive at the Palace were the Cambridges, with Prince William driving, pregnant Kate in the passenger seat, and George and Charlotte in the back with their nanny, Maria Borrallo.

A roaring success? Meghan looked at ease as she departed from her first Christmas lunch with the Queen A roaring success? Meghan looked at ease as she departed from her first Christmas lunch with the Queen 

A roaring success? Meghan looked at ease as she departed from her first Christmas lunch with the Queen

The former Suits star was all smiles, having clearly enjoyed her afternoon at Buckingham Palace The former Suits star was all smiles, having clearly enjoyed her afternoon at Buckingham Palace 

The former Suits star was all smiles, having clearly enjoyed her afternoon at Buckingham Palace

Loved up couple! Meghan was seen chatting to her royal beau as they drove away from the palace Loved up couple! Meghan was seen chatting to her royal beau as they drove away from the palace 

Loved up couple! Meghan was seen chatting to her royal beau as they drove away from the palace

Meghan's dark hair was looking even more rich and glossy than ever before Meghan's dark hair was looking even more rich and glossy than ever before 

Meghan's dark hair was looking even more rich and glossy than ever before

Meghan opted for a glamorous beauty look today, showcasing a smokey eye and a layer of shiny lipgloss in preparation to meet new members of the royal family Meghan opted for a glamorous beauty look today, showcasing a smokey eye and a layer of shiny lipgloss in preparation to meet new members of the royal family 

Meghan opted for a glamorous beauty look today, showcasing a smokey eye and a layer of shiny lipgloss in preparation to meet new members of the royal family

Meghan appeared to be full of excitement as she headed to the palace, this being the second time she has been seen since the couple announced their engagement Meghan appeared to be full of excitement as she headed to the palace, this being the second time she has been seen since the couple announced their engagement 

Meghan appeared to be full of excitement as she headed to the palace, this being the second time she has been seen since the couple announced their engagement

Among the first to arrive today were the Cambridges, with Prince William taking the wheel while Kate took the passenger seat Among the first to arrive today were the Cambridges, with Prince William taking the wheel while Kate took the passenger seat 

Among the first to arrive today were the Cambridges, with Prince William taking the wheel while Kate took the passenger seat

Meanwhile Princess Charlotte and Prince George sat in the back with nanny Maria BorralloMeanwhile Princess Charlotte and Prince George sat in the back with nanny Maria Borrallo

Meanwhile Princess Charlotte and Prince George sat in the back with nanny Maria Borrallo

Prince George looked adorable in a navy blue wool coat as he sat patiently while travelling to his great-grandmother's home Prince George looked adorable in a navy blue wool coat as he sat patiently while travelling to his great-grandmother's home 

Prince George looked adorable in a navy blue wool coat as he sat patiently while travelling to his great-grandmother's home

As always, Kate's hair was coiffed to perfection, and the Duchess appeared to be wearing a faux-fur trimmed coat As always, Kate's hair was coiffed to perfection, and the Duchess appeared to be wearing a faux-fur trimmed coat 

As always, Kate's hair was coiffed to perfection, and the Duchess appeared to be wearing a faux-fur trimmed coat

Eagle eyed royal fans may be able to spot Princess Charlotte, who is wearing a red ribbon, behind the Duchess of Cambridge Eagle eyed royal fans may be able to spot Princess Charlotte, who is wearing a red ribbon, behind the Duchess of Cambridge 

Eagle eyed royal fans may be able to spot Princess Charlotte, who is wearing a red ribbon, behind the Duchess of Cambridge

And the nanny is invited too! Kate and William arrive at the Palace with trusted aide Maria Borrallo – as she takes care of George and Charlotte in the back seat

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's faithful nanny, Spanish-born Maria Borrallo, 46, was spotted next to Prince George in the rear of Prince William's royal car as they family arrived at Buckingham Palace this afternoonThe Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's faithful nanny, Spanish-born Maria Borrallo, 46, was spotted next to Prince George in the rear of Prince William's royal car as they family arrived at Buckingham Palace this afternoon

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's faithful nanny, Spanish-born Maria Borrallo, 46, was spotted next to Prince George in the rear of Prince William's royal car as they family arrived at Buckingham Palace this afternoon

Ms Borrallo first began working in the royal household in 2014, when she was employed to take care of Prince George. She trained at the prestigious Norland CollegeMs Borrallo first began working in the royal household in 2014, when she was employed to take care of Prince George. She trained at the prestigious Norland College

Ms Borrallo first began working in the royal household in 2014, when she was employed to take care of Prince George. She trained at the prestigious Norland College

Maria Borrallo has been employed in the royal household since 2014 when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge first recruited her to look after Prince George.

Three years on, the Spanish nanny sat in the back of Prince William and Kate's royal car as they arrived at the Palace this afternoon for their seasonal lunch.

With Prince George, 4, clearly seen sitting on his booster seat, it's assumed Princess Charlotte, 2, was just out of view in the vehicle's rear.

Ms Borrallo has been a regular fixture at major royal events and has also travelled abroad with the couple. With the Cambridge brood set to expand in April when Kate gives birth to a third child, the 46-year-old's childcare remit is set to get even bigger.

Ms Borrallo trained at the prestigious Norland College which has been producing childminders for the rich and famous since 1892. The institution's students are known for their distinctive uniforms and are schooled in all aspects of looking after youngsters during their three-year degree course.

Prince Charles looked dapper in a suit as he was joined by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall in the passenger seatPrince Charles looked dapper in a suit as he was joined by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall in the passenger seat

Prince Charles looked dapper in a suit as he was joined by Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall in the passenger seat

Both Charles and Camilla are expected at Sandringham for Christmas but today also gives them the opportunity to see some of their more distant family Both Charles and Camilla are expected at Sandringham for Christmas but today also gives them the opportunity to see some of their more distant family 

Both Charles and Camilla are expected at Sandringham for Christmas but today also gives them the opportunity to see some of their more distant family

Camilla looked elegant in a forest green coat and could be seen smiling to the cameras upon her arrival at the palace Camilla looked elegant in a forest green coat and could be seen smiling to the cameras upon her arrival at the palace 

Camilla looked elegant in a forest green coat and could be seen smiling to the cameras upon her arrival at the palace

The Duchess of Cornwall was driven to Buckingham Palace for the traditional family lunch with her husband, Prince CharlesThe Duchess of Cornwall was driven to Buckingham Palace for the traditional family lunch with her husband, Prince Charles

The Duchess of Cornwall was driven to Buckingham Palace for the traditional family lunch with her husband, Prince Charles

Lady Amelia Windsor, granddaughter of the Duke of Kent, was dubbed Britain's most beautiful royal by Tatler and proved herself worthy of the title this afternoonLady Amelia Windsor, granddaughter of the Duke of Kent, was dubbed Britain's most beautiful royal by Tatler and proved herself worthy of the title this afternoon

Lady Amelia Windsor, granddaughter of the Duke of Kent, was dubbed Britain's most beautiful royal by Tatler and proved herself worthy of the title this afternoon

George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews, drove his elegant daughter to the event accompanied by his wife Sylvana TomaselliGeorge Windsor, Earl of St Andrews, drove his elegant daughter to the event accompanied by his wife Sylvana Tomaselli

George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews, drove his elegant daughter to the event accompanied by his wife Sylvana Tomaselli

Stylish couple: Prince and Princess Michael of Kent  arrive in style for the Queen's Christmas lunchStylish couple: Prince and Princess Michael of Kent  arrive in style for the Queen's Christmas lunch

Stylish couple: Prince and Princess Michael of Kent arrive in style for the Queen's Christmas lunch

Prince Charles was also in attendance on Wednesday, accompanied by his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, who looked chic in a forest green jacket.

Not far behind was Princess Eugenie, who was snapped in the passenger seat of a car as she made her way to her grandmother's house.

The 27-year-old had opted for a festive red dress, which could be seen poking from beneath a navy blue coat.

A FAMILY AFFAIR! THE GUESTLIST AT THE QUEEN'S CHRISTMAS LUNCH

The Queen's annual pre-Christmas lunch is a royal tradition, and gives the monarch an opportunity to catch up with those relatives who don't join her at Sandringham over the festive period.

Closer relatives join the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at her Norfolk estate from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day to enjoy traditional celebrations, including a bracing walk to church on December 25th and a turkey lunch.

For those spending the big day with their own immediate families, the annual lunch at Buckingham Palace is the perfect opportunity, and often the only opportunity in the calendar, to spend time with all of their relatives at once.

The family enjoy a three course lunch in the Buckingham Palace dining rooms before heading home in the late afternoon.

This year's guest list included….

  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Princess Charlotte and Prince George
  • Prince Harry and fiance Meghan Markle
  • The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall
  • The Princesses of York, Beatrice and Eugenie
  • Sophie, The Countess of Wessex and Lady Louise Windsor
  • George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews, Sylvana Tomaselli and daughters Lady Amelia and Marina Windsor
  • The Duke and Duchess of Kent
  • Princess Anne and Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence
  • Peter and Autumn Phillips with daughters Savannah and Isla
  • Lord Frederick Windsor, Freddie and Maud Windsor
  • Prince and Princess Michael of Kent with Lady Gabriella Windsor
  • The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester with grandson Rufus Gilman
  • Princess Alexandra
  • Lord Nicholas Windsor, Lady Paola, Albert and Louis Windsor
  • Viscountess Serena Linley, Charles and Margarita Armstrong-Jones
  • Lady Sarah and Daniel Chatto
  • Lady Helen Taylor, Timothy, Estella, Cassius, Eloise and Columbus Taylor

Princess Eugenie was among the first to arrive at the Queen's annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday Princess Eugenie was among the first to arrive at the Queen's annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday 

Princess Eugenie was among the first to arrive at the Queen's annual Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday

The Queen's granddaughter appeared to be in good spirits as she arrived at the palaceThe Queen's granddaughter appeared to be in good spirits as she arrived at the palace

The Queen's granddaughter appeared to be in good spirits as she arrived at the palace

Following behind was her elder sister Princess Beatrice who gave a wave to the cameras as she made her way through palace gates Following behind was her elder sister Princess Beatrice who gave a wave to the cameras as she made her way through palace gates 

Following behind was her elder sister Princess Beatrice who gave a wave to the cameras as she made her way through palace gates

Princess Beatrice is another to regularly attend Christmas celebrations at Sandringham but looked delighted to be catching up with other relatives Princess Beatrice is another to regularly attend Christmas celebrations at Sandringham but looked delighted to be catching up with other relatives 

Princess Beatrice is another to regularly attend Christmas celebrations at Sandringham but looked delighted to be catching up with other relatives

For the drive back the two sisters swapped seats so that Eugenie was able to sit up front well Beatrice sat in the back For the drive back the two sisters swapped seats so that Eugenie was able to sit up front well Beatrice sat in the back 

For the drive back the two sisters swapped seats so that Eugenie was able to sit up front well Beatrice sat in the back

Sophie, the Countess of Wessex cut an unusually informal figure as she drove her daughter Lady Louise Windsor to the palaceSophie, the Countess of Wessex cut an unusually informal figure as she drove her daughter Lady Louise Windsor to the palace

Sophie, the Countess of Wessex cut an unusually informal figure as she drove her daughter Lady Louise Windsor to the palace

Sophie could be seen wearing a denim jacket as well as a rarely seen pair of spectacles while her daughter looked festive in a red cardigan Sophie could be seen wearing a denim jacket as well as a rarely seen pair of spectacles while her daughter looked festive in a red cardigan 

Sophie could be seen wearing a denim jacket as well as a rarely seen pair of spectacles while her daughter looked festive in a red cardigan

Autumn Phillips, the wife of Peter Phillips seen at the wheel of the vehicle as one of today's earliest arrivals.

Eagle eyed royal fans may have been able to spot her daughter Isla Phillips, who appeared to be in an excitable mood ahead of Christmas.

Unusually Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence, husband of Princess Anne, chose to walk to the event doing away with cars like his fellow royals.

Members of the extended family in attendance included the Queen's cousin Prince Michael of Kent who arrived with his daughter Lady Gabriella Windsor and his wife Princess Michael, who looked typically glamorous.

It seems there were plenty of youngsters to keep Charlotte and George company on Wednesday with Lord Frederick Windsor arriving with his two children Freddie, and Maud – who attends the same Battersea school as George.

It seems that Meghan is being well and truly welcomed into the royal family after it was confirmed that she will join them for celebrations in Sandringham over Christmas.

Princess Anne's husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence did away with a car and chose to arrive at the event on footPrincess Anne's husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence did away with a car and chose to arrive at the event on foot

Princess Anne's husband Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence did away with a car and chose to arrive at the event on foot

Smartly dressed in a sharp suit with a crisp white shirt and a red tie, Sir Laurence, 62, clearly left some of the crowds a tad confused, with many unsure as to whether a royal would actually walk in the rain to the gates of Buckingham Palace Smartly dressed in a sharp suit with a crisp white shirt and a red tie, Sir Laurence, 62, clearly left some of the crowds a tad confused, with many unsure as to whether a royal would actually walk in the rain to the gates of Buckingham Palace 

Smartly dressed in a sharp suit with a crisp white shirt and a red tie, Sir Laurence, 62, clearly left some of the crowds a tad confused, with many unsure as to whether a royal would actually walk in the rain to the gates of Buckingham Palace

Princess Anne arrived separately to her husband, travel by car rather than join Laurence on the walk Princess Anne arrived separately to her husband, travel by car rather than join Laurence on the walk 

Princess Anne arrived separately to her husband, travel by car rather than join Laurence on the walk

The Queen's daughter was wrapped up warm in a beige coat and a blue silk scarf as she made her way to the palace The Queen's daughter was wrapped up warm in a beige coat and a blue silk scarf as she made her way to the palace 

The Queen's daughter was wrapped up warm in a beige coat and a blue silk scarf as she made her way to the palace

He just strolled right in! Princess Anne's husband Sir Timothy Laurence greets well-wishers as he WALKS into Buckingham Palace (and he's done it before)

Easier on foot! Princess Anne's husband retired British naval officer Mr Laurence, 62, surprised many of the tourists gathered outside Buckingham Palace this afternoon by eschewing a royal car in favour of attending on footEasier on foot! Princess Anne's husband retired British naval officer Mr Laurence, 62, surprised many of the tourists gathered outside Buckingham Palace this afternoon by eschewing a royal car in favour of attending on foot

Easier on foot! Princess Anne's husband retired British naval officer Mr Laurence, 62, surprised many of the tourists gathered outside Buckingham Palace this afternoon by eschewing a royal car in favour of attending on foot

Princess Anne's husband Timothy Laurence opted for the low-key approach as he arrived for the Queen's Christmas lunch this afternoon.

Eschewing a royal car, the 62-year-old Vice Admiral opted to use his own two feet to attend the lavish festive affair.

Dressed for the inclement weather in a green tweed overcoat, Laurence also donned a sharp suit with crisp white shirt and an eye-catching pillar-box red tie.

As he strode past hundreds of tourists, only a few seemed to realise there was a royal in the midst and reached for their smartphones to capture a picture.

Obviously not a fan of London traffic, the retired British naval officer Mr Laurence has taken the 'on foot' option before when attending the Queen's annual Christmas event.

The Queen's granddaughter-in-law Autumn Phillips could be seen at the wheel of the car, with eagle eyed royal fans being able to spot Isla Phillips in the backThe Queen's granddaughter-in-law Autumn Phillips could be seen at the wheel of the car, with eagle eyed royal fans being able to spot Isla Phillips in the back

The Queen's granddaughter-in-law Autumn Phillips could be seen at the wheel of the car, with eagle eyed royal fans being able to spot Isla Phillips in the back

For their return journey Peter Phillips took the wheel to drive his wife and daughter home from the lunch For their return journey Peter Phillips took the wheel to drive his wife and daughter home from the lunch 

For their return journey Peter Phillips took the wheel to drive his wife and daughter home from the lunch

Among the young arrivals was Maud Windsor, who attends the same school as distant cousin Prince GeorgeAmong the young arrivals was Maud Windsor, who attends the same school as distant cousin Prince George

Among the young arrivals was Maud Windsor, who attends the same school as distant cousin Prince George

Freddie Windsor (seen far left) Maud's younger brother appeared to have dozed off on the journey over Freddie Windsor (seen far left) Maud's younger brother appeared to have dozed off on the journey over 

Freddie Windsor (seen far left) Maud's younger brother appeared to have dozed off on the journey over

Lord Frederick Windsor drove his wife and daughter to the palace from their home in London on Wednesday Lord Frederick Windsor drove his wife and daughter to the palace from their home in London on Wednesday 

Lord Frederick Windsor drove his wife and daughter to the palace from their home in London on Wednesday

Lord Frederick, who is the son of the Queen's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, appeared to be in good spirits as he made the drive home Lord Frederick, who is the son of the Queen's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, appeared to be in good spirits as he made the drive home 

Lord Frederick, who is the son of the Queen's cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, appeared to be in good spirits as he made the drive home

The star, 36, will spend the festive period at Her Majesty's private estate in Norfolk even though Kate Middleton was only asked after she walked down the aisle with Prince William in 2011.

The Queen's invitation to the US-born actress is further evidence of the royal family's warm welcome for her ahead of the couple's May wedding at Windsor Castle.

Meghan, who will take British citizenship and get baptised by the Church of England before the wedding, will also attend the Christmas Day service at St Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham.

She and Harry, 33, who are now living together in a two-bed cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace, will also take part in the traditional walk to mass by the entire royal family.

Confirming the news today a Kensington Palace spokesman said: 'You can expect to see The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and Ms Markle at Sandringham on Christmas Day.'

The Queen's cousin Prince Michael of Kent arrived with his wife Princess Michael of Kent who looked typically glamorousThe Queen's cousin Prince Michael of Kent arrived with his wife Princess Michael of Kent who looked typically glamorous

The Queen's cousin Prince Michael of Kent arrived with his wife Princess Michael of Kent who looked typically glamorous

Lady Gabriella Windsor, daughter of Prince Michael of Kent, looked stylish in a red coat as she was driven to the palace by her parents Lady Gabriella Windsor, daughter of Prince Michael of Kent, looked stylish in a red coat as she was driven to the palace by her parents 

Lady Gabriella Windsor, daughter of Prince Michael of Kent, looked stylish in a red coat as she was driven to the palace by her parents

The Duchess of Gloucester whose husband is the Queen's cousin is a regular at the palace lunch  The Duchess of Gloucester whose husband is the Queen's cousin is a regular at the palace lunch  

The Duchess of Gloucester whose husband is the Queen's cousin is a regular at the palace lunch

Another of the Queen's cousins Princess Alexandra appeared to be in a good mood as she made her way to the lunch Another of the Queen's cousins Princess Alexandra appeared to be in a good mood as she made her way to the lunch 

Another of the Queen's cousins Princess Alexandra appeared to be in a good mood as she made her way to the lunch

Lord Nicholas Windsor, the son of the Duke of Kent, was unusual in taking a taxi to the event on Wednesday accompanied by his son AlbertLord Nicholas Windsor, the son of the Duke of Kent, was unusual in taking a taxi to the event on Wednesday accompanied by his son Albert

Lord Nicholas Windsor, the son of the Duke of Kent, was unusual in taking a taxi to the event on Wednesday accompanied by his son Albert

The wife of Lord Nicholas, Lady Paola, (left) was pictured holding their youngest son Louis in the back of the taxi The wife of Lord Nicholas, Lady Paola, (left) was pictured holding their youngest son Louis in the back of the taxi 

The wife of Lord Nicholas, Lady Paola, (left) was pictured holding their youngest son Louis in the back of the taxi

Albert Windsor, 10, the eighth grandchild of the Duke and Duchess of Kent arriving with his family Albert Windsor, 10, the eighth grandchild of the Duke and Duchess of Kent arriving with his family 

Albert Windsor, 10, the eighth grandchild of the Duke and Duchess of Kent arriving with his family

Viscountess Serena Linley was behind the wheel driving her teenage son Charles Armstrong-Jones to the festive lunchViscountess Serena Linley was behind the wheel driving her teenage son Charles Armstrong-Jones to the festive lunch

Viscountess Serena Linley was behind the wheel driving her teenage son Charles Armstrong-Jones to the festive lunch

Margarita Armstrong-Jones sat in the back who at 15, has appeared to have already inherited her mother, Viscountess Serena Linley's, elegance Margarita Armstrong-Jones sat in the back who at 15, has appeared to have already inherited her mother, Viscountess Serena Linley's, elegance 

Margarita Armstrong-Jones sat in the back who at 15, has appeared to have already inherited her mother, Viscountess Serena Linley's, elegance

The Duke and Duchess of Kent were joined by granddaughter Marina Windsor for their journey to Buckingham Palace The Duke and Duchess of Kent were joined by granddaughter Marina Windsor for their journey to Buckingham Palace 

The Duke and Duchess of Kent were joined by granddaughter Marina Windsor for their journey to Buckingham Palace

Daniel Chatto wrapped up warm as he drove the Queen's niece Lady Sarah Chatto to the much anticipated event Daniel Chatto wrapped up warm as he drove the Queen's niece Lady Sarah Chatto to the much anticipated event 

Daniel Chatto wrapped up warm as he drove the Queen's niece Lady Sarah Chatto to the much anticipated event

The Duke of Kent's daughter, Lady Helen Taylor, was accompanied by her whole family including husband Timothy Taylor, and two children Estella, Cassius, Eloise and Columbus TaylorThe Duke of Kent's daughter, Lady Helen Taylor, was accompanied by her whole family including husband Timothy Taylor, and two children Estella, Cassius, Eloise and Columbus Taylor

The Duke of Kent's daughter, Lady Helen Taylor, was accompanied by her whole family including husband Timothy Taylor, and two children Estella, Cassius, Eloise and Columbus Taylor

The Duke of Gloucester sat with his grandson Rufus who paid tribute to the Queen by clutching a corgi stuffed toyThe Duke of Gloucester sat with his grandson Rufus who paid tribute to the Queen by clutching a corgi stuffed toy

The Duke of Gloucester sat with his grandson Rufus who paid tribute to the Queen by clutching a corgi stuffed toy

Meghan's attendance today comes just a few days before she heads to Sandringham in Norfolk where she will spend Christmas with the royal family Meghan's attendance today comes just a few days before she heads to Sandringham in Norfolk where she will spend Christmas with the royal family 

Meghan's attendance today comes just a few days before she heads to Sandringham in Norfolk where she will spend Christmas with the royal family

Meghan looked preened to perfection for her visit to the palace while Harry looked dapper in a suit and tie Meghan looked preened to perfection for her visit to the palace while Harry looked dapper in a suit and tie 

Meghan looked preened to perfection for her visit to the palace while Harry looked dapper in a suit and tie

Maria Borrallo has been working for the Cambridges for three years and is often on hand to provide assistance at family eventsMaria Borrallo has been working for the Cambridges for three years and is often on hand to provide assistance at family events

Maria Borrallo has been working for the Cambridges for three years and is often on hand to provide assistance at family events

Kate wore a festive fur stole over a black wool jacket as she joined her family for the early Christmas celebrations Kate wore a festive fur stole over a black wool jacket as she joined her family for the early Christmas celebrations 

Kate wore a festive fur stole over a black wool jacket as she joined her family for the early Christmas celebrations

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Australia

Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms

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The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.

The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.

All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.

It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.

British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.

The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.

The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.

It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.

“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.

“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”

The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.

It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128

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Australia

Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official

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Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.

The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.

Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.

Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.

“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.

“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.

Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.

Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”

However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.

Australia’s tight restrictions

The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.

Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.

A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.

Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.

Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.

Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.

Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.

The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.

While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.

Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.

In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581

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Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection

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The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.

Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.

Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.

It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.

The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.

Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”

“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.

“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”

Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.

Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.

For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.

Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.

A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.

Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane

Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane

At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.

When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.

Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.

While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.

But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.

And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.

And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.

Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836

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