Queen Elizabeth II and senior members of the royal family—along with newcomer Meghan Markle, Prince Harry's fiancee—arrived at a Christmas church service as a crowd of local residents gathered. Markle smiled and gave a brief wave on her way into the church in her first public appearance with the queen. Many well-wishers carried flowers to give to the royals. The queen was joined by her husband, Prince Philip, and close family members including grandson Prince William and his wife, Kate, who is expected to give birth to the couple's third child in the spring. Markle scored an invite despite a tradition of excluding royals' significant others before marriage. She and Prince Harry plan to marry at Windsor Castle in May. Elizabeth says in her annual Christmas message that the royal family looks forward "to welcoming new members into it next year."
Elizabeth planned to use her brief message to pay tribute to the way the cities of London and Manchester pulled together after extremist attacks earlier this year. Remarks pre-recorded by the 91-year-old monarch will be televised later on Christmas Day, reports the AP. Excerpts released indicate Elizabeth praises the "powerful identities" of Manchester, hit by a suicide bomber in May, and London, which endured attacks on Parliament, London Bridge, and other landmarks. The queen says it was her privilege to visit young survivors of the attack on a Manchester concert hall. "I describe that hospital visit as a 'privilege' because the patients I met were an example to us all, showing extraordinary bravery and resilience," she says. Elizabeth also pays tribute to her 96-year-old husband, who this year stepped down from most public duties because of his advancing years.