Here's why Kate once turned down Christmas with the royals

While Christmas with the royals sounds like a fantasy come-to-life for most of us, for 24-year-old Kate Middleton, it seemed to be the exact opposite. Currently, Duchess Kate and Prince William spend each Christmas Eve and Day with Queen Elizabeth II — no longer switching off the holiday with Middleton's family because of the queen and Prince Philip's "advancing ages," per Us Weekly. But it wasn't always so cut-and-dry. 

The royal family heads to Sandringham for the holidays to celebrate together with various age-old traditions, like the queen taking the train to the small city and honoring their German roots by opening gifts on Christmas Eve, as reported by Town and Country. However, Her Majesty once broke an unwritten royal holiday rule by inviting Prince William's then-girlfriend of five years, Kate Middleton, to the family's festivities. Traditionally, only spouses get the coveted invitation. 

However, historian Robert Lacey's October 2020 book, Battle of Brothers, alleges that Kate "refused" the queen's early invite to Christmas in 2006 (via Marie Claire). The outlet also reports that the monarch broke the rule again in 2017, when she extended the invitation to Prince Harry's then-fiancée, Meghan Markle. But asking future Duchess Kate to join in the royal family's winter festivities as a girlfriend had never been done before.

Kate Middleton wanted a ring before she accepted the royal Christmas invitation

According to Robert Lacey's Battle of Brothers book (via Marie Claire), "[Kate] would go to Sandringham on Christmas Day only when she was engaged and had a ring to prove it." Indeed, as noted by the outlet, the Duchess of Cambridge finally headed over to the family's Christmas estate in 2011 — following her wedding to Prince William.

Now that they have children, this royal couple aims to make the holidays as special and as normal as possible. According to a source cited by Us Weekly in 2018, "It's important to them that their kids share childhood traditions like their school pals." Thus, the Cambridges' family first decorates and gets into the Christmas spirit at their home in London, Kensington Palace. 

Duchess Kate still gets to see her own Middleton clan between these rigorous royal festivities, however. E! News reports that she and Prince William's country home, Anmer Hall, is just a short drive from Sandringham, and the mother-of-three's family fills the 10-bedroom mansion. Needless to say, the Cambridge children never run low on presents from their royal family members or the Middletons!