The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will spend Christmas with the Duchess's mother, Doria Ragland, rather than at Sandringham, Buckingham Palace confirmed last night.
The couple will embark on an extended break later this month and are not expected to return to royal duties until after the festive period.
They are believed to be planning to travel to the US for at least part of the break, which was planned to allow them to spend some quality time together as a family and, crucially, out of the public eye.
While a spokesperson for the Sussexes insisted that the decision to spend Christmas away from the Queen's Norfolk estate, where the family traditionally gathers, followed a precedent set by others it may fuel fears that they are considering seeking a path away from traditional Royal family life.
It follows a tumultuous few months for the couple, culminating in an extraordinary television interview in which both admitted that they were struggling to cope with the pressures of life in the spotlight.
The Duchess, who gave birth to their son Archie in May, said it was no longer enough for her to "just survive" life under such scrutiny, which she suggested had not been fair and was "internally really damaging".
The Duke spoke of his own mental health setbacks and acknowledged a "rift" with his brother, the Duke of Cambridge, for the first time.
He revealed that the flashbulbs of cameras take him “straight back” to the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, as he described the childhood trauma as a “wound that festers”.
The couple have also launched separate legal battles against the tabloid press in recent months, with the Duke issuing a furious statement in which he denounced the “relentless propaganda” against his wife.
He condemned what he has called a "ruthless campaign" against the Duchess, saying: "I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."
A spokesperson for the Sussexes said the couple were "looking forward to extended family time."
They added: "Having spent the last two Christmases at Sandringham, Their Royal Highnesses will spend the holiday this year, as a new family, with the Duchess’ mother Doria Ragland.
"This decision is in line with precedent set previously by other members of the Royal Family, and has the support of Her Majesty The Queen."
The Palace said further details concerning their whereabouts would not be given for security reasons, although they are likely to be in either Los Angeles or Windsor.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have also chosen to spend several Christmas's away from the formalities of Sandringham, often decamping to the Middleton family home in Buckbury, Berks, instead.
But it will be a first for Prince Harry, who has spent every Christmas at Sandringham bar one, when he was serving in Afghanistan in 2012. He has been joined by the Duchess at the Norfolk estate for the last two years.
The Cambridges are expected to be at Sandringham with their children, Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, four and Prince Louis, one.