Back in 1992, Queen Elizabeth referred to the year as “annus horribilis” or a horrible year in Latin due to many turbulent events surrounding the British royal family. The marriages of three of her children ended in divorce and her home of Windsor Castle was engulfed in a devastating fire that destroyed over 100 rooms.
In the new millennia, the Queen has reigned over Brexit and a pandemic. When it comes to her family, the past three years has seen a whirlwind of events from sexual assault allegations to senior royals stepping down from their duties.
Now on her 70th-year reign, news surfaced that she tested positive for COVID-19 beckoning the question – is it all too much for a monarch that is inching 100 years old? Here we look into key events that have caused much buzz in the new decade of the queen’s rule.
Before anything, the union of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in itself was an affair that riled up the royal family and especially the tabloids. Harry who is in line to the throne marrying a biracial, divorced American actress created a media frenzy that feels too close to home with the treatment of his mother, the late Princess Diana by the press. Taking that into account, the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex decided to take a step back as royal seniors and eventually stepped down as working royals in 2020.
By doing so, the couple will be financially independent, no longer receiving public funds and live as private citizens. However, they continue to be in full support of the queen and their philanthropic work with causes like racial injustice and children’s needs. On top of that, the couple has pursued other ventures like their non-profit organisation Archewell and scored deals with Spotify and Netflix.
Their step back was discussed in a much talked about primetime special moderated by media mogul Oprah Winfrey. The 90-minute interview revealed shocking truths about Meghan’s isolated time in the royal household, riling up debates on whether we should sympathise with her or if it’s just a plea for attention. Love her or hate her, Meghan and Prince Harry’s departure was done with good intentions. Like what Historian and British royals expert Marlene Koenig told TIME, “They’re not being kicked out; they’ve made a decision to take what they do as royals, but do it on their terms.”
At the height of the pandemic, the royal family was struck by the death of Prince Phillip on April 9 2021. The Duke of Edinburgh was 99 and passed away peacefully at Windsor Castle. According to The Telegraph, the official cause of death was ‘old age’.
Prince Phillip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark in 1921 and spent his youth serving in the Royal Navy. In 1946, he renounced his royal titles to become a naturalised British subject and took the surname Mountbatten. Shortly after, he married then-Princess Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey and eventually became the prince consort when Elizabeth ascended the throne. He served alongside the monarch for close to 70 years before his passing, making him the longest-serving consort to a British sovereign.
The biggest scandal yet for the British monarchy centres around Prince Andrew, the Duke of York (the third child of Queen Elizabeth) as he faces a US civil lawsuit for sexual assault by a woman named Virginia Giuffre. In court documents, Virginia was once part of a sex trafficking ring led by convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein and was lent to his powerful friends including Prince Andrew while she was still a teenager.
The Duke of York has continuously denied the allegations, reiterating that in a disastrous BBC TV interview where he also explained about an odd medical condition. This is referring to Giuffre’s claim that he was “sweating profusely all over me” at a London nightclub on the night of the sexual assault. The prince said in the interview, “I have a peculiar medical condition, which is that I don’t sweat, or I didn’t sweat at the time, and that was—was it—yes, I didn’t sweat at the time.” He stepped back from royal duties shortly after and the queen later stripped him of his many military titles, royal patronages and HRH title in 2022.
In February 2022, Prince Andrew agreed to settle the lawsuit out of court. The settlement amount is undisclosed but is estimated to be over £10 million, to be compensated to Giuffre and her charity supporting victims’ rights. There are reports that the Queen will help to cover some costs but the money will only be channelled to Giuffre’s charity.
The obsession with the royals has been a lucrative business for the press and the entertainment industry. The Netflix show The Crown that depicts the life of the royal family from Elizabeth’s ascension is a streaming sensation and an award show darling, winning 11 Primetime Emmys in 2021. Though praised by viewers, the queen has not expressed her opinion on the matter. Her communication secretary did release a statement saying, “The royal household has never agreed to vet or approve content and would never express a view as to the programme’s accuracy.” Albeit slightly dramatised, these shows allow us a glimpse into the lives of the monarchy outside of their public persona that frankly, make for good entertainment.
Then there’s the resurgence of Princess Diana decades after her passing. There have been films like 2006’s The Queen and recently Spencer, documentaries like Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy on HBO and even Diana: The Musical streaming on Netflix. There was even a re-published biography titled Diana: Her True Story–in Her Own Words where biographer Andrew Morton revealed more groundbreaking insights about Diana’s time as Princess of Wales, solidifying further her impact before and even after her passing.
On happier news, some light was shed on the question, will Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall be queen when Prince Charles ascends the throne? Well, Queen Elizabeth released a statement during her Platinum Jubilee – “And it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her loyal service.”
This is seen by many as the queen’s stamp of approval for the Duchess of Cornwall. For many years, Camilla was seen as a controversial figure by the press and the public. Her affair with the crown prince was much talked about in the early 90s and was considered a factor in the separation of Prince Charles from his then-wife, the late Princess Diana.
Camilla finally wed Prince Charles in 2005, using her royal title to champion causes like animal welfare and domestic abuse. Despite her husband’s recent scandal over claims that his charitable foundation is trading cash-for-honours, Camilla is on a steady path to public acceptance and hopefully, a warm embrace towards becoming queen.
Despite all these events, Queen Elizabeth has been leading with grace and stability. Together with her change of heart towards Camilla, she has been preparing for the future of the monarchy by slowly passing her royal duties to her son Prince Charles as well as Prince William and Kate. No doubt her sovereignty so far has been formidable, her popularity and adoration unscathed. This begs the question, will there be a worthy successor? All we can hope for is that whenever the time comes, her successor will follow in her admirable stead.
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