The Queen’s Christmas Day message will look back on what Her Majesty calls a “bumpy” 2019 for the royal family.
While most observers agree it was not quite as bad as her “annus horribilis” of 1992, when three of her children’s marriages collapsed and Windsor Castle was engulfed by fire, let’s look back on how the past 12 months panned out for the royals.
When did the year start going wrong?
January. While the sight of a pregnant Duchess of Sussex put smiles on faces, the Duke of Edinburgh was involved in a car crash. The 97-year-old pulled out of a driveway at Sandringham onto a busy A road, apparently dazzled by the low sun, and was hit by another vehicle containing two women and a nine-month-old boy.
Philip’s car flipped over and he had to be rescued through the sun roof. And the aftermath became heated. The two women were treated in hospital, with passenger Emma Fairweather – who broke her wrist – calling for the duke to be prosecuted if found at fault.
Did Prince Philip calm sensitivities over the situation?
Not quite. Despite calls for the him to hand in his licence due to his advanced years, he was photographed a few days later driving without a seatbelt. He did, however, hand his licence in a month later, thus escaping prosecution.
What else went wrong?
Despite the feelgood factor of the May arrival of Meghan and Harry’s boy Archie, some controversy followed in June. It was revealed the couple’s residence, Frogmore Cottage, was renovated with £2.4 million of taxpayers’ money. Meghan and Harry also formally split from their joint charity with William and Kate to set up their own foundation, as rumours flared the two young couples were not getting on.
What happened next?
Worse was to come in August. The Duke of York came into the spotlight a little more when his friend, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, killed himself in prison. Afterwards, new footage appeared, showing Andrew in the paedophile’s Manhattan mansion in 2010, after Epstein’s release from prison. Legal documents emerged accusing Andrew of touching a young women’s breast at Epstein’s house.
Meanwhile, Meghan was growing more used to the spotlight as she and Harry were criticised for taking four flights in 11 days, despite championing the environment.
The couple’s September tour of Africa then ended on a sour note when the duchess launched legal action against a newspaper group over allegations it unlawfully published a letter she wrote to her father. Harry accused the tabloid press of a “ruthless campaign” against his wife.
Even the Queen was caught up in a controversy when a court ruled Boris Johnson’s advice to her to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was unlawful. Newspapers later alleged Mr Johnson had lied to the monarch.
What of Prince Andrew?
Things only grew worse. Allegations continued from American woman Virginia Giuffre that she had been forced to have sex with him when aged 17 as part of a trafficking ring run by Epstein. The duke finally moved to clear the air with a BBC Newsnight interview, but it went horribly for him. He was heatedly criticised for showing a lack of empathy towards Epstein’s victims, an absence of remorse over his friendship with him, and for denying Ms Giuffre’s recollection that he was very sweaty, owing to a medical condition meaning he could not perspire.
The fall-out was intense. As entities including BT, Barclays and many other institutions in various countries cut ties with Andrew’s charity work, the duke eventually announced he was quitting royal duties, ostensibly retiring at the age of 59. Lawyers for Epstein’s alleged victims called on the duke to give a formal statement to the American authorities.
Still more damaging headlines followed Ms Giuffre’s first UK television interview in December, when she said she had felt “horrified and ashamed” after one alleged sexual encounter with Andrew.
At least Christmas let the year end on a brighter note?
Not altogether. The Sussexes made more news for choosing to spend Christmas in Canada, rather than with the royal family.
And as Andrew retreated from the spotlight, questions lingered as to whether he would be questioned by the FBI in America, as one of the biggest scandals in royal history refused to go away.