The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex appeared the best of friends when they led the royal family to church on Christmas Day with their husbands.

Meghan and Kate were all smiles as they walked side by side, just as they had done last Christmas, with Harry and William, past hundreds of royal fans.

The former Suits actress also hugged a well-wisher she spotted in the crowds outside the Norfolk church – Jessica Daniels, who was a long-time Instagram and Twitter follower of the duchess.

And Kate confessed to a royal fan that Prince George and Princess Charlotte had been up “very early” opening their presents.

Royals attend Christmas Day Church serviceThe Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Sussex and the Duke of Sussex arrive (Joe Giddens/PA)

The royal women have been the subject of a series of media reports claiming there is a rift between them.

There have been allegations of a dispute over who reprimands staff, tensions during Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress fitting and claims that Harry and Meghan’s move from London to Frogmore Cottage in Berkshire reflects a widening gulf between the women.

Royals attend Christmas Day Church serviceCrowds gather as they await the arrival of the royals (Joe Giddens/PA)

But as they walked with the rest of the family the short distance from the Queen’s Sandringham home to St Mary Magdalene Church they laughed together and seemed engrossed in conversation.

Hundreds of well-wishers had braved the cold conditions to see the “fab four” as Harry, Meghan, William and Kate have been dubbed by the media.

Missing was the Duke of Edinburgh, understood to be in good health and spending the day relaxing with his family, and the Duchess of Cornwall, who is still suffering from a heavy cold.

The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex The Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex chatted as they arrived (Joe Giddens/PA)

But royal fans also saw Peter Phillips arrive holding the hands of his daughters Savannah and Isla, and Princess Beatrice walking with Peter’s wife Autumn Phillips.

Other members of the royal family who attended the church service included the Prince of Wales, Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and their children, Lady Louise Windsor and Viscount Severn, the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, and Zara and Mike Tindall.

The Queen arrived in her state limousine with the Duke of York.

Royals attend Christmas Day Church serviceThe Queen arrives for the service (Joe Giddens/PA)

During the service the congregation sang traditional carols O Little Town Of Bethlehem, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O Come All Ye Faithful.

Afterwards the young royals went on a brief walkabout and when Meghan saw 17-year-old Jessica holding up a small sign with her Instagram username on it, Jessica Scarlett, she instantly recognised it and gave her social media friend a hug.

The teenager, from Peterborough, described the experience as “amazing” adding : “I started watching Suits, then I started following her on social media and then followed her acting and followed her humanitarian work, so I’ve been a fan of her for years.

Royals attend Christmas Day Church serviceThe Countess of Wessex, Lady Louise Windsor, James, Viscount Severn and the Earl of Wessex attended the service (Joe Giddens/PA)

“There were a group of us girls on social media she became kind of close with and interacted a lot online.”

She said about the duchess, who closed down her social media accounts before her marriage to Harry: “This is the first time I’ve met her, she just said ‘it’s so lovely to meet you, incredible to finally see you’ and she was asking how we all are and if we’re still talking and supporting each other.”

Meghan and Kate were given armfuls of bouquets by well-wishers as they went on a brief walkabout after the service with their husbands.

Royals attend Christmas Day Church serviceThe Duchess of Cambridge meets Jill Lee, 71, from Cambridge (Joe Giddens/PA)

Kate chatted to Jill Lee, from Cambridge, who has watched the royals attend church on Christmas Day a number of times.

She said: “I said to Kate ‘were the children up early’ and she said ‘very early, but it was lovely to see their faces’.”

The 71-year-old, a retired seamstress, kissed Harry on the cheek a few years ago when he left church but this year he declined the offer – because of Meghan.

She said: “I said to Harry ‘I can’t kiss you this year, can I?” and he said ‘no’ and pointed to his wife.”