It’s been speculated for days that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would not be joining the Queen and other members of the royal family for Royal Christmas at Sandringham. Buckingham Palace confirmed in a statement yesterday that the Sussexes will indeed be skipping it this year: 

"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, [the couple] will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the Duchess’ mother Doria. 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."

You’ll note that they cited the “precedent”, a reminder that other royals have done the same and that they’re not breaking new ground here, an attempt to offset the rumouring and the subsequent criticism, especially since, for about a year now, there’s been so much drama about House Sussex and their relationship to the family, in particular their fractured relationship with House Cambridge. Not that it helped. This was great news for the British tabloids and their angle, obviously, is that this is another terrible idea, the latest in a series of terrible ideas on the part of the Sussexes, because they are actively taking themselves out of the picture, thereby deepening the royal divide and breaking Her Majesty’s heart. You know what’s heartbreaking? When your beloved second son is embroiled in a sex trafficking scandal because he was friends with the dead rapist pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. 

Anyway, according to PEOPLE, even though Harry and Meghan will not be at Sandringham, they won’t be spending Christmas in LA with Doria Ragland either. For security reasons they’re not revealing where they’ll be but most are assuming that Doria will be staying with them at Frogmore for Thanksgiving and may be coming back to Frogmore for Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor’s first Christmas. It’s probably cozier and easier to deal with an infant at home rather than having to manage the Royal Christmas schedule. I’m trying to imagine what it’s like at Sandringham at Christmas and the Succession Thanksgiving episode keeps coming to mind, LOL. Relax, of course it’s not like that. The Roys are rich but they’re not aristocrats. Aristocrats know better…don’t they? History taught us that. 

So there it is, we’re not getting the shot of the four young glamourous royals walking to church. Which means… there’s a vacancy! Who will William and Kate partner up with now? You know who’s primed to take advantage of this? Prince Andrew, obviously. Both of his daughters are officially partnered now, Beatrice is recently engaged. Will Eduardo Mapelli Mozzi, her fiancé, be making his Sandringham debut this year? And will Andrew nudge Beatrice and Eduardo up the path to join Will and Kate? This is what they do at court – and it’s been happening for as long as court has existed: they jockey for position, and they often use their daughters to bring their own houses closer to the centre of power and, in Andrew’s case, protection.

It can be argued that Harry and Meghan, in distancing House Sussex from the Queen’s inner circle, are also risking their influential value and thus not thinking strategically and, in the long run, the long game, it could cost them. But you might also take away from their decision that they simply aren’t interested in playing this old ass game of court politics, that they will seek and sustain their power elsewhere. Which side do you fall on?