Queen backs Harry and Meghan’s decision to spend Christmas away from Sandringham

The Queen has offered her support to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex following their decision to spend Christmas away from Sandringham.

Harry and Meghan will be celebrating the festive period with the duchess's mother, Doria Ragland, instead of joining the royal family's traditional celebration in Norfolk.

The 93-year-old monarch is said to be doing her best to keep the couple in the royal fold after criticism of them in the media, it has been reported.

The Queen and Harry

Courtiers told the Daily Express she is helping them to cope with the pressures of royal life, and drops in at Frogmore Cottage for regular visits when at Windsor.

Buckingham Palace declined to comment.

Harry and Meghan's choice to mark Archie's first Christmas apart from the royal family follows claims of a rift – first between Meghan and the Duchess of Cambridge and then between Harry and his brother, the Duke of Cambridge.

In a television documentary last month, Harry, when asked about the situation, said he loves William dearly but they are "on different paths at the moment" and have "good days" and "bad days" in their relationship.

The Sussexes released a new happy family photo of Archie with his "Grandpa", the Prince of Wales, and Harry to mark Charles's 71st birthday on Thursday.

It is not yet known whether Harry and Meghan have invited Ms Ragland to spend time with them in the UK or whether they will travel to the US for Christmas.

But there is speculation that they may be taking their son to experience his first Thanksgiving in the States this month.

The duke and California-born duchess are preparing for a six-week break from royal duties.

Christmas Day Church service

A spokeswoman for the couple said: "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are looking forward to extended family time towards the end of this month.

"Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, Their Royal Highnesses will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the Duchess's mother, Doria Ragland.

"This decision is in line with precedent set previously by other members of the royal family, and has the support of Her Majesty The Queen.

"For security reasons, we will not be providing further details on their schedule at this time."

In the past, William and Kate have also sometimes spent Christmas with the duchess's parents, the Middletons, rather than with the royal family.

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Royal Family on Christmas Day
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Royal Family on Christmas Day
The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Sussex and the Duke of Sussex arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
Queen Elizabeth II attends the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
Peter Phillips with his daughters Isla (left) and Savannah arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Prince of Wales attends the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
Autumn and Peter Phillips arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Duchess of Cambridge speaks with Jill Lee, 71, from Cambridge as she arrives to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Duchess of Cambridge arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
Queen Elizabeth II arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
The Countess of Wessex, Lady Louise Windsor, James Viscount Severn and the Earl of Wessex arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
Crowds gather as the await the arrival of the Royals attending the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
Zara Tindall and Mike Tindall arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
Autumn Phillips and Princess Beatrice arriving to attend the Christmas Day morning church service at St Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, Norfolk.
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Well-wishers gather each year to see the royals take their traditional stroll on December 25 to the morning service at the Church of St Mary Magdalene in Sandringham.

The Windsors enjoy a festive lunch back at Sandringham House and then settle down together to watch the Queen's Christmas Day speech.

William, the Queen and other senior royals were said to have been left "very worried" about the Sussexes after their emotional appearance in an ITV documentary, filmed on their recent tour to Africa.

Harry described his mental health and the way he deals with the pressures of his life as a matter of "constant management".

Meghan admitted feeling vulnerable, and spoke of the difficulty of coping with intense tabloid interest, saying: "It's not enough to just survive something, that's not the point of life. You have got to thrive."

The couple's high-profile visit to Africa, carried out at the request of the Government, was overshadowed on the penultimate day when the duke condemned the British tabloid press, as Meghan launched a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers.

The duchess is suing over an alleged breach of copyright and privacy after the Mail on Sunday published a private letter between her and her estranged father.

The newspaper said it stands by its story and will be "defending this case vigorously".

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