Christmas is a manic time for most of us but this year it’s even busier for Kate Middleton, who will have a much longer gift list now she is joining the royal family.
She spent last Christmas in Cornwall with only her immediate family in a house rented from the Duchy of Cornwall estate, but this year, snowy weather permitting, she will be dashing about all over the country.
She is spending the weekend before Christmas with Prince William at Sandringham in Norfolk, supporting him as he attends a local Christmas spectacular for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Meanwhile, Prince Harry will be in Berlin the same weekend at a TV gala collecting a Golden Heart Award for his work with children’s charities.
Kate then goes back to join her parents Michael and Carole, brother James and sister Pippa for what may be the last time they all celebrate the festive season together.
Everyone who marries into the Queen’s immediate family is invited to be with her and Prince Philip at Sandringham House, their favourite home, where Kate will undoubtedly spend next Christmas as William’s bride.
Attending this family gathering of the Queen’s children and grandchildren in Norfolk is not exactly a royal rule but no one fails to show up without a convincing excuse.
Prince William has one this year as he volunteered to work over the Christmas weekend flying Search and Rescue missions at his base RAF Valley in Anglesey, so colleagues with young families could enjoy time off.
He will be sleeping in officers’ quarters at the base not at the farmhouse he shares with Kate a few miles away. So he will be tucking into festive fare supplied by Royal Air Force caterers rather than turkey and all the trimmings served up by the Queen’s chef at Sandringham.
But this means he will be off duty at New Year, when he and Kate are expected to be with her family, celebrating not just the start of a very thrilling New Year but also the beginning of their royal life together.
Kate got a taste of what this will be like when she met William’s extended family on December 16 at Buckingham Palace, just one month to the day after their engagement was announced.
She was invited to lunch by the Queen for the first time along with more than 50 other guests, including gangs of Gloucesters, crowds of Kents and dozens of other assorted royal grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews.
I watched her drive through the palace gates into the central inner courtyard in a silver Range Rover squashed in the back seat between William and a Scotland Yard protection officer. She looked excited but also perhaps a tiny bit apprehensive. And who can blame her? She was clearly the centre of attention as many of the family had not met her before.
When she drove out two and a half hours later she was laughing with William and Harry, clearly relieved that her big debut at the palace was over.
She may have a little time off between now and early January but then the countdown to her April wedding will start again. And there’s a wedding dress to buy, bridal attendants to choose and a million other details to sort out.
It looks like Kate will have an even busier New Year!