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Royal celebrations by invitation only

As families across Britain struggled yesterday to enjoy a happy time together, the Royals acted out their traditional role by having a family Christmas like many others, only more so.

In common with many matriarchs in the age of the post-nuclear family, the Queen had to decide which divorced and remarried children to invite to Christmas lunch. Unlike some, she was able to command the presence of her grandchildren without their mothers, the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of York.

The Princess of Wales turned up to church in Sandringham with her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, studiously ignoring her husband. She walked with the Royal family to church, then chatted with members of the 2,500-strong crowd while her husband stood back, talking to Prince Edward.

But the princess had not been included on the list for Christmas lunch, and after the church service returned to London to eat alone at Kensington Palace.

However, she was more welcome than the Duchess of York, who was exiled to a house on the Sandringham estate and excluded from church and lunch.