Royal Family celebrate Kate's 38th birthday as Sussexes 'step back' from senior roles

The Royal Family has gathered to celebrate the Duchess of Cambridge's 38th birthday as Harry and Meghan announced they are stepping back as senior royals.

Kate was seen driving into Kensington Palace for her celebrations on Thursday morning, hours after her brother and sister-in-law made the shock announcement on Wednesday, reportedly without consulting the Queen.

Buckingham Palace's official Twitter and Instagram accounts shared three pictures of Kate with Her Majesty and one on her own.

The caption said: "Wishing The Duchess of Cambridge a very Happy Birthday!"

Clarence House, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall's office, shared four pictures on Instagram and Twitter of Kate with the couple and the Duke of Cambridge, accompanied by the same caption and a balloon emoji.

Kensington Palace thanked the public for "all your lovely messages" with a previously unseen picture of Kate dressed casually in jeans and a jumper.

In the comments, Harry and Meghan's official account Sussex Royal said: "Wishing a very happy birthday to The Duchess of Cambridge today!"

Kate was expected to celebrate her birthday with husband William and their children - Prince George, six, Princess Charlotte, four, and 20-month-old Prince Louis.

Princess Eugenie was also seen arriving at Kensington Palace for the celebrations, which are expected to also be attended by several senior royals.

It is not known if Harry and Meghan will attend after their announcement which is said to have left the Queen "disappointed".

Sky News understands the Monarch was not told they were going to "step back" from their senior royal roles which will see them become "financially independent".

The Queen and Prince Charles were in the early stages of discussing with the duke and duchess what their future in the family was going to be when they made the announcement.

In the latest development, on Thursday evening, it was claimed staff have been directed to speed through arrangements for the couple to lead a less public life.

A Buckingham Palace source said: "The Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge have directed their teams to work together at pace with government and The Sussex Household to find workable solutions.

"Expected to take days not weeks."

There were reports of a rift between Kate and Meghan after the former American actress married Harry.

William and his brother then fell out, with Harry and Meghan splitting their household from Kensington Palace, then leaving the Royal Foundation they shared with Kate and William.

In a documentary following the Sussexes' tour to Africa, they spoke of struggling to cope with the media attention and Harry said he had "good days" and "bad days" with his brother.

The Queen spoke in her Christmas Day address of the "bumpy" path both her family and the nation had experienced over the last 12 months.

Many questions about Harry and Meghan's future have been left unanswered by their sudden announcement, with Buckingham Palace also scrabbling to understand the implications.

It warned of "complicated issues".

While Meghan has admitted struggling to adapt to life as a royal after years of living as an actress, Kate and William got together at university before their wedding in 2011.

On that day, Kate became a future queen, while Meghan is married to the now sixth-in-line to the throne, thanks to Kate's children.