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Christmas photo of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and family released

Christmas photo of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and family released

(Chris Jelf)

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(CNN) — A new Christmas photo of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, has been released.

Taken by photographer Chris Jelf in the gardens of Kensington Palace in late October, the photo shows the young family surrounded by autumnal foliage with the little prince dressed in a pair of shorts and his sister casually missing a shoe.

"I thoroughly enjoyed photographing a very lovely family -- although you have to be sharp as you don't have long when there are two young children involved," said Jelf.

"The Duke and Duchess are hugely appreciative of all the warm messages they have received about their family this year and are very much looking forward to their first Christmas as a family of four," the palace said in a statement.

The photo comes as the palace announced that 2-year-old George will start attending Westacre Montessori School Nursery in Norfolk in the east of the country before the end of January.

The school is near the family's home on the Sandringham Estate and close to where Prince William works as an air ambulance pilot, signaling that the Duke and Duchess now view this as their primary residence, rather than Kensington Palace in London.

By royal standards, Westacre -- housed in a converted chapel -- is a modest, rural school costing $8.20 per hour, or $49 per day.

Montessori refers to an educational style developed by Italian teacher Maria Montessori that emphasizes independent learning and respect for the child's psychological development.

Williams' own nursery, while also Montessori, was at the private Mrs. Mynors' Nursery School in Inner London, near Kensington Palace, and in 1986 cost a reported $850 a year to attend.

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