The estate, with its Jacobean-style gabled roofs, sprawling gardens, and tidal mud flats, has long been a favorite refuge for English monarchs. The queen’s grandfather, George V, described it as “dear old Sandringham, the place I love better than anywhere else in the world.” He died there in 1936.
George VI, the queen’s father, died there in February 1952, while his daughter was away on a royal tour in Kenya. The queen now stays at Sandringham from before Christmas until February to mark the anniversary of his death and her accession to the throne. She plays host at a Christmas lunch at the house, which is one of a handful of times the entire royal family is together.
Prince Harry and Meghan missed that gathering this year, having decided to spend the holiday in Canada with their eight-month-old son, Archie. After returning briefly with her husband to make their announcement, the duchess flew back to Canada last week to be with Archie, who they had left with a friend.
She had been expected to take part in the family meeting via conference call from Canada, people with ties to the palace said, but the palace did not confirm on Monday whether she did.
The British press has been scathing in its coverage of the couple, particularly the duchess, an American actress who was once celebrated here as a breath of fresh air for the stodgy House of Windsor. The tabloids took offense on behalf of the queen, saying they said she was blindsided by the duke and duchess.
The circuslike atmosphere was deepened by a report in the Mirror, attributed to “insiders,” that the pop star Elton John was told of Prince Harry and Meghan’s plan before the queen. The couple view Sir Elton, who was close to Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, and sang at her funeral, as a “rock.”
“Elton speaks to Harry and Meghan every day,” the Mirror said, quoting an insider. “He’s an inspiration, an almost ‘motherly’ figure. They made their decision alone, but he’s a shoulder to lean on and listened as they spoke about their plans.”