The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took their three children to Buckingham Palace today for the Royal Family’s Christmas lunch hosted by the Queen.
Prince William arrived with his son Prince George, six, who appeared to be sat on a booster seat next to him in the front, while Kate brought Princess Charlotte, four, and Prince Louis, 19 months, in a separate car.
The Cambridges later left together in the same car. Also attending the annual event in London this afternoon was a host of senior royals including Prince Charles, Camilla, Beatrice and Eugenie and the under-fire Prince Andrew.
The Duke of York came despite the continuing scandal over the latter’s friendship with paedophile tycoon Jeffrey Epstein – and the fallout from a disastrous BBC interview in which he unsuccessfully tried to clear his name.
Mike and Zara Tindall were there, as was Sophie, Countess of Wessex and her daughter Lady Louise Windsor, 16, in one car and her husband Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex with their son James, Viscount Severn, 12, in another.
However there was no sign of Prince Harry and Meghan, who do not plan to return to Britain until next year while they have a six-week break from royal duties to spend time with baby Archie in an undisclosed country.
William and Kate also arrived separately, despite coming in the same car for last year’s event. Each had their own royal protection officer, compared to 2018, when the family arrived just with nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo.
Royal experts do not believe the separate arrival was for security reasons, despite claims in the past that Charles, Harry and William would not travel on the same plane to avoid the line of succession being wiped out if it crashed.
The arrangement is also unlikely to have been because of different school pick-up times, with Charlotte and George both now attending Thomas’s Battersea in South West London which broke up for Christmas last Friday.
It was hoped Prince Philip, 98, would make the journey from Norfolk, where he spends most of his time nowadays, to attend. However, despite the Duke of Edinburgh going to last year’s dinner, he has not yet been seen today.
Prince Louis, Princess Charlotte and Prince George leave the Queen’s Christmas party at Buckingham Palace in London today
The Duchess of Cambridge smiles as she leaves the Queen’s Christmas party with her husband William and three children
Prince Louis, who is 19 months old, is photographed leaving the Christmas party at Buckingham Palace this afternoon
Kate smiles in front of her daughter Princess Charlotte as they leave the traditional annual party in London today
Prince George sits next to his father Prince William as they arrive for the Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace today
Princess Charlotte (left), four, and Prince Louis (right), 19 months old, both arrive at the party today with their mother Kate
The Duchess of Cambridge waves as she arrives at the Christmas lunch today with Princess Charlotte in the back of the car
The Duchess of Cambridge arrives at Kensington Palace with a security aide this afternoon for the Christmas lunch
The Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Louis attend the Queen’s Christmas Lunch at Buckingham Palace in London today
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Prince William smiles and waves as he arrives at Buckingham Palace in London with his son Prince George this afternoon
Prince George, the oldest son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, arrives at Buckingham Palace this afternoon
Prince William smiles as he sits alongside Prince George in the car as they arrive for the Christmas lunch in London today
Prince George arrives for the Royal Family’s Christmas Lunch at Buckingham Palace in London this afternoon
Prince William waves as people watch his arrival at the Christmas lunch party for members of the Royal Family today
A member of the royal security team can be seen travelling in the front seat with the Duchess of Cambridge this afternoon, with nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo pictured smiling in the back
A member of the Duke of Cambridge’s security team can be seen in a back seat as William arrives with Prince George today
Seven-month-old Archie will be missing out on some fun family time with his new cousins Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, whom he has barely seen since his birth in May.
Children – including George, who used to refer to the Queen as ‘Gan Gan’ – and babies will enjoy a Christmas dinner in a separate room, run by nannies and palace staff. The youngsters even have their own entertainer.
Meghan first attended in 2017, with insiders saying she passed her first major test as a member of the Royal Family by pulling a cracker with future father-in-law, Prince Charles, donning a paper hat and reading out a corny joke.
The turkey and trimmings lunch at Buckingham Palace takes place annually on the Wednesday before Christmas, shortly before the Queen leaves for Sandringham for the festive season.
The tradition is one of the rare times all of the monarch’s extended family meet, and is a chance for the Queen to celebrate with those who do not receive an invitation to spend Christmas in Norfolk with the senior royals.
The family are seated at round tables, enjoy a Sandringham-bred turkey lunch and pull crackers.
Prince Charles arrives for the Royal Family Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace in London this afternoon
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall smiles as she attends the Royal Family Christmas lunch party hosted by the Queen today
Prince Andrew arrives for a Christmas lunch party hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in London this afternoon
The Duke of York arrives at Buckingham Palace driving a Bentley car as he attends the Christmas party for the Royal Family
Princess Beatrice arrives for the Queen’s Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace in London this afternoon
Princess Beatrice, the daughter of Prince Andrew and Sarah, Duchess of York, is driven into the palace grounds today
Princess Eugenie, who married Jack Brooksbank in Windsor in October last year, arrives at Buckingham Palace this afternoon
Speaking about William and Kate travelling separately with their children today, royal expert Phil Dampier told MailOnline: ‘I can only assume that they came from a different place.’
Asked if it was security related, he said: ‘I wouldn’t have thought so. I’ve known occasions in the past where historically it was said that Charles and his two sons wouldn’t travel on the same plane because if it crashed you’d have wiped out the whole line of succession.
‘But there are occasions when they have gone on the same plane, so that doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule. I can only assume one of the kids had to come from a different place. ‘
Andrew’s attendance today comes despite the 59-year-old Duke has faced renewed calls to speak to investigators in the US about the Epstein sex slave accusations.
The Duke has struggled to move past the scandal despite stepping down from public service in the fallout from his disastrous BBC interview about the subject.
Princess Anne and Timothy Laurence arrive for the Christmas party at Buckingham Palace in London
Former rugby player Mike Tindall and his wife Zara Tindall (née Phillips) arrive for the party at Buckingham Palace today
Lady Gabriella Kingston (née Windsor) and Thomas Kingston, who married in May in Windsor, arrive at the palace today
Prince Michael of Kent and Princess Michael of Kent attend the Royal Family’s Christmas Lunch at Buckingham Palace today
Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones, the daughter of the Earl and Countess of Snowdon, arrives for the party today
Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester and his wife Birgitte, Duchess of Gloucester attend the Christmas lunch today
But earlier this week the Archbishop of Canterbury weighed into the scandal, saying it is wrong to expect royals to behave like ‘superhuman saints’.
What’s UK law on children riding in the front passenger seat in cars?
By AMIE GORDON
Children aged three to 12, or up to the height of 135cm (4ft 4in) in Britain and 150cm (4ft 9in) in Ireland, must travel in a booster seat in the front or back of the car.
Once a child surpasses 135cm (4ft 4 in), they are allowed to travel without a booster seat in the front or back.
It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure all children under the age of 14 wear a seat belt. Those who do not position or restrain a child correctly in the car risk a fine of up to £500.
Only EU-approved height-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘R129’.
And only EU-approved weight-based child car seats can be used in the UK. These have a label showing a capital ‘E’ in a circle and ‘ECE R44’.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents says: ‘If the middle rear seat has a three-point (lap and diagonal) seat belt, this is the safest to put a child restraint (unless the manufacturer’s instructions say it fits better in one of the other seats) because it is the furthest away from the sides of the car.’
The Most Rev Justin Welby insisted ‘everybody is human’ as he appeared to defend the Duke amid the continuing backlash.
Criticism has mounted in recent weeks after the Duke faced claims he had slept with two of Epstein’s victims.
The Archbishop became the latest high-profile figure to weigh in on the scandal when he was asked whether the royals must adhere to a higher moral code.
He replied: ‘I think to ask that they be superhuman saints is not what we should do because nobody is like that.
‘Everybody makes mistakes, everybody is human. I am not commenting on any member of the Royal Family except to say that I am astonished at what a gift they are to this country.’
The head of the Church of England made the comments in an interview with The Big Issue.
This came as the duke’s sex accuser, Virginia Roberts, claimed on Twitter this week that the prince knew she been trafficked to the UK when they allegedly met.
Miss Roberts, 31, claimed in a BBC interview earlier this month that she was abused by Andrew at the age of 17 and was left feeling ‘ashamed and dirty’.
She claimed Andrew bought her alcohol in London’s Tramp nightclub before they had sex at the home of Epstein’s former girlfriend and close associate, Ghislaine Maxwell.
Miss Roberts – who uses her married name Giuffre – said she felt sick when she realised she was expected to have sex with him.
Andrew has repeatedly denied her claims and said he could not remember meeting her, despite a photograph showing him with her arm around her bare waist.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex smiles as she arrives with her daughter Lady Louise Windsor at Buckingham Palace today
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex drives his son James, Viscount Severn, 12, into Buckingham Palace this morning
Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex arrives for the Royal Family’s Christmas lunch in London today
Sophie, Countess of Wessex arrives with her daughter Lady Louise Windsor as they drive into Buckingham Palace today
Sophie, Countess of Wessex drives her 16-year-old daughter Lady Louise Windsor, who is 13th in line to the throne
Lady Helen Taylor – the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Katharine, Duchess of Kent – arrives today
Lady Serena Armstrong-Jones and Lady Margarita Armstrong-Jones arrive for the Queen’s Christmas lunch this afternoon
The Duke of Kent arrives with granddaughters Lady Amelia Windsor (centre) and Lady Marina Windsor for today’s lunch
Lord Frederick Windsor and his wife Sophie Winkleman, who is Claudia Winkleman’s half-sister, arrive for the lunch today
Lady Sarah Chatto and husband Daniel Chatto arrive for the Queen’s Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace today
Lady Helen Taylor, her husband Timothy and their daughter Estella arrive for the Queen’s Christmas lunch in London today
Daniel Chatto, husband of Lady Sarah Chatto, the daughter of Princess Margaret, arrives at Buckingham Palace today
Flora Ogilvy, whose father James is the son of Sir Angus Ogilvy and Princess Alexandra of Kent, the Queen’s first cousin
Crowds watch as Mike and Zara Tindall arrive for the Royal Family’s Christmas Lunch at Buckingham Palace this afternoon
Mike Tindall and Zara Tindall arrive for the Queen’s Christmas lunch at Buckingham Palace in London this afternoon
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh are pictured together at Windsor Castle in Berkshire on May 7, 2019
The mother of three is one of more than 80 women who say they were abused by Epstein.
She is one of a number of the victims who have urged the duke to speak to the FBI about Epstein’s criminality.
Andrew has so far resisted pleas to speak to US investigators despite publicly saying that he is ‘willing to help any appropriate law enforcement agency with their investigations if required’.
Earlier this week, it emerged that one of Epstein’s victims had written to the prince to say he had been used as ‘bait’ to attract victims by his wealthy friend.
Lawyers in the US last week said a second alleged victim of Epstein had come forward to say she had sex with Andrew.
It is understood she has not made any allegation of wrongdoing, but said she and the duke had consensual sex.