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Inside Duchess Meghan, Prince Harry, and Archie’s California Christmas Plans

Yesterday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released their Christmas card via Mayhew, a animal rescue charity for which Duchess Meghan serves as patron. The portrait is adapted from a photograph Meghan’s mother Doria took of the family of three: Prince Harry, Meghan and a nearly eighteen-month-old Archie joined by their two rescue pups, beagle Guy and black lab Pula, in their backyard at their new home in Montecito, California

A spokesperson for the duke and duchess told ELLE.com, “ The original photo of the family was taken at their home earlier this month by the duchess’s mother. The small Christmas tree, including the homemade ornaments and other decorations, were selected by Archie, and the tree will be replanted after the holidays.”

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Alongside the card, Mayhew revealed that the Sussexes made donations to three charities—Mayhew, the Henry Van Straubenzee Memorial Fund, which helps underprivileged children in Uganda, and Transition House, which supports the homeless. Prince Harry and Prince William are both patrons of the Henry van Straubenezee Memorial Fund, which was set up when their childhood friend died in a tragic car accident

The message inside the holiday card reads, “This year we, as a family, have made donations to several charities with you in mind. From a local California organization that helps families transition out of homelessness t0 two of our U.K. patronages, one that supports animal and community welfare, and the other, a memorial fund that helps to educate children and fight poverty in Uganda, we have honored their work on behalf of all of us.”

We have not seen an updated photo of Archie, who is now walking, since Prince Harry and Meghan shared an adorable video of the duchess reading Duck, Rabbit! to Archie on his first birthday, when the little boy showed he was the spitting image of his father at the same age. The video was shot by Prince Harry and posted on the U.K. Save the Children website to support the #savewithstories campaign for families affected by the coronavirus. The book was a gift to the couple from Oprah Winfrey, who has since become neighbors of Harry and Meghan after they purchased their “forever home” near Oprah’s estate in Montecito, California.

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The Sussexes have been keen to protect their son’s privacy so he can “grow up in as normal environment as possible” and have only released limited photographs of a growing Archie. The seventh in line to the throne is now walking and growing by leaps and bounds.

Archie accompanied his parents on the couple’s royal tour of South Africa at just four months. He attended a visit for tea at the home of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu but has largely been out of view since Harry and Meghan stepped back from their roles as senior royals last March in order to lead a more private life.

Meghan and Harry told Malala Yousafzai earlier this fall that while isolating at home, they have been able to enjoy all of Archie’s milestones. We “were both there for his first steps, his first run, his first fall, his first everything,” Harry shared, with Meghan adding, “And it’s just fantastic because I think in so many ways, we are fortunate to be able to have this time to watch him grow and in the absence of COVID, we would be traveling and working more externally, and we’d miss a lot of those moments… So I think it’s been a lot of really good family time.”

ELLE.com has learned that the family intends to spend their first Christmas in the United States “at home quietly with Meghan’s mother Doria in Santa Barbara.” Meghan, who is an accomplished gourmet cook, will prepare some of their favorite dishes. The Sussexes will be “exchanging Christmas gifts with the whole family.” Harry and Meghan have sent presents to Prince William and Kate and the couple’s children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.

ELLE also understands that Harry and Meghan will “speak with family members over the holidays, just like any family.” COVID-19 has really brought the family closer together. Both Prince Charles and Prince William contracted the disease, and Prince Harry naturally was concerned being so far away. Harry remains close to his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, who will also be spending Christmas “quietly” at Windsor Castle, in a departure from tradition, as a result of the pandemic. Harry is planning to speak to her by video call so she and Prince Philip will be able to enjoy seeing their sweet great-grandson Archie.

The queen has been isolating at Windsor Castle with a small group of staff in what is being dubbed HMS Bubble. The family usually congregate each year at Sandringham, but due to the lockdown in London and southeast parts of the nation downgraded to Tier 4 restrictions, the Christmas festivities, which allowed the three families to celebrate together in most years, have all been cancelled. The queen did have a brief reunion at Windsor Castle with Prince William, Kate, Prince Charles, and Camila after the Cambridge’s train tour a few weeks ago.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex spent last Christmas away from the Royal Family in Canada at the Mille Fleurs estate in North Saanich on the tip of the Vancouver Island peninsula. Last year, the couple also shared an adorable photo of Archie during the holidays taken by Meghan’s dear friend, The Morning Show actress Janina Gavankar, and a sweet video of the couple’s year in review, which included a picture of baby Archie held by his father.

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ELLE understands the couple has no imminent plans to return to London for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19 health guidelines. Whether they return in the late spring for Prince Philip’s 100th birthday and the queen’s 95th official birthday celebration Trooping the Colour, both in June, remains up in the air. At the moment, Harry and Meghan are following all relevant medical recommendations and travel guidelines.

The couple had planned to attend Prince Harry’s Invictus Games for wounded, injured, and sick service members and veterans in The Hague last spring until the event was postponed in light of travel restriction due to the global pandemic. The unveiling of the Princess Diana statue at Kensington Palace is also expected later in 2021, but it’s unclear at this point whether it could be postponed as a result of global travel restrictions.

The Sussexes had planned to return to London in the next few weeks for the ongoing breach of privacy lawsuit against Associated Newspapers and the Mail on Sunday, but that has been postponed for nine months until next autumn. The judge could still provide a summary judgment in the case, which would preclude them from returning.

Meanwhile, Harry and Meghan and a growing Archie are enjoying family time together in their new home while the Sussexes have been busy with their humanitarian and charitable work through their non-profit Archewell. Just last week, the duchess announced an investment in a female-founded oat milk latte company. And over the weekend, Archewell’s partnership with World Central Kitchen was announced, which will help those all over the globe suffering from food insecurity, an issue Harry and Meghan have drawn attention to by volunteering at food banks and distributing food to the vulnerable since the pandemic started. 2021 promises to be an exciting year ahead for the Sussexes and Archewell.

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