- 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
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.
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.
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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 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 establishment
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
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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.
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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 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
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 today
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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 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 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 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
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 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 afternoon
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 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 back
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 George
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, 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 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
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
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
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 lunch
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
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 Taylor
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 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 events
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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