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Aoife Finneran: Finding your prince means the end of the family Christmas

EVERY girl remembers reading fairytale stories that promoted the handsome prince as the holy grail. And for one Kate Middleton, the fairytale has become a reality. But those childhood books never warned Kate that the prince also comes accessorised by a collection of intimidating in-laws.

Of course, the only thing worse than an intimidating in-law is an intimidating in-law in a position of power. And they don't come much more powerful than the British royal family.

Unfortunate

I actually gasped aloud when I discovered that royal protocol will prohibit Kate from spending Christmas with the Middleton family after she marries. And for every poor unfortunate who has already married into the family, their fate has been the same.

Furthermore, even though William will be away on duty on Christmas day, as an engaged woman Kate is expected to spend the day with the royals. It's almost enough to make one consider breaking off the engagement.

Fair play then to Kate for putting her foot down and telling Queen Elizabeth to carve her own turkey, as she'll be spending her last Christmas as a single woman with her own family. Mind you, if I were her I'd think twice about holding onto to that massive sapphire ring and instead I'd encourage Wills to abdicate a la Edward and Wallis Simpson and shrug off the responsibility of adhering to protocol for the rest of their lives.

Frankly, I think it's appalling that a young woman in love is being sentenced to a lifetime of Christmases without her own family until she eventually becomes queen and calls the shots herself.

It doesn't say much for the cop-on of the current incumbent that she's so enthralled by protocol that she can't possibly bend the rules to allow Kate's family to join them for the holiday festivities.

It's fair to say I've become slightly preoccupied by the royals and their bizarre rules since learning of this fatwa on family fun. And after hearing of Camilla's Christmas plans, the royal wives have definitely rocketed in my estimation.

In a move that screams "I'm sick to the teeth of you lot", plucky Camilla is planning to flee to her own family on St Stephen's... oh, go on then, Boxing Day. In other words, the prospect of staring across a bowl of brussels sprouts at Charles and his stuffy parents for the whole holiday season was simply too much of a cross to bear.

Dowdy

I always thought of Camilla as a dowdy yes-woman with little to contribute. But in a display of dignity and class, she's putting up with her husband and the royals for one day before spending the rest of her holiday with her children and grandchildren. Now that sounds like a woman who's got her priorities right.

It's also a lesson for those of us who are fretting that heavy snow might prevent us from buying presents, attending boozy parties or finishing all the pre-Christmas preparations.

Just count yourselves lucky that you're not contracted into an official engagement that takes you away from your own family because you happen to have fallen in love with a royal.

This weekend, the best gift any of us can receive is to make it home safely to be our families.

Perhaps somebody should advise the queen that this is a luxury that should far outweigh any stupid protocol.


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