As she spends her first Christmas with the in-laws, Meghan Markle could be forgiven a few nerves about how she will fit in. Come 3pm on Christmas Day, as she settled down in front of the television, any lingering fears were allayed in some style, as the Queen used her Christmas message to officially welcome her into the family.
Displaying a photograph of Prince Harry and Ms Markle as they celebrated their engagement in the garden of Kensington Palace, the Queen said she is looking forward to welcoming new members of the family in 2018.
Ms Markle, of course, will be one of them, as well as a new Prince or Princess for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, due in April.
The Prince and his fiance, who will wed at Windsor Castle in May, are spending their first Christmas together with the Royal Family at Sandringham.
Ms Markle’s inclusion has been widely interpreted as a relaxation of convention, which usually sees new members of the family invited only when they are married.
The Queen also marked Catherine Middleton’s introduction into the family in her Christmas message, speaking only after the wedding in 2011 to acknowledge the “the marriages of two of our grandchildren”: Prince William to Miss Middleton, and Zara Phillips to Mike Tindall.
This year, in a poignant speech about her family, the Queen also paid tribute to her husband, the 96-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, in the year of their 70th anniversary, highlighting his “unique sense of humour”.
Acknowledging events for Britain this year, including terrorist attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire, she said difficult times made her “grateful for the blessings of home and family, and in particular for 70 years of marriage”.
“I don’t know that anyone had invented the term “platinum” for a 70th wedding anniversary when I was born,” she said.
“You weren’t expected to be around that long. Even Prince Philip has decided it’s time to slow down a little – having, as he economically put it, “done his bit”.
“But I know his support and unique sense of humour will remain as strong as ever, as we enjoy spending time this Christmas with our family and look forward to welcoming new members into it next year.”
The subject of family was emphasised, as usual, with an array of photographs in Buckingham Palace’s 1844 room including the Queen and Prince Philip’s 1947 wedding photograph and their official portrait to mark their 70th wedding anniversary this year.
Pictures of her great-grandchildren Prince George and Princess Charlotte were also on display, along with pictures of Prince Harry and Ms Markle, and one shot of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall taken this year by Mario Testino.
Describing the extraordinary changes her record-breaking reign has seen, the Queen referenced her first Christmas broadcast, 60 years ago, in which “a young woman spoke about the speed of technological change as she presented the first television broadcast of its kind”.
“Six decades on, the presenter has ‘evolved’ somewhat, as has the technology she described,” she added.