Royal roller coaster: a turbulent year for House of Windsor

The writing was on the wall. Family reunions, legal issues, fractured relationships and exiled royals – the 12 months were always going to be difficult for the House of Windsor. But nothing could have prepared the royal family for the realities of the past year and the seismic changes it has undergone.

2022 should have been a year of celebration, the occasion to welcome the entry of Queen Elizabeth II into a closed club of world leaders who have passed the historic milestone of 70 years of service.

For many Britons, the Queen was the only monarch they had ever known, but instead the Platinum Jubilee of the summer became a swan song that brought thousands to London to celebrate her reign one last time.

Exuberant revelers draped in Union Jack flags flocked to the British capital for the long weekend. As expected, the four days of glitz and pageantry were an eclectic and, at times, eccentric British spectacle. But concern for the Queen’s health cast a shadow over the occasion – a stark reminder that her presence was not forever.

With her ongoing health and mobility issues, she only appeared twice: once at the start of the events with the Trooping the Color military parade and during the final of the contest when she went to the balcony of the palace of Buckingham for what would become the last time.

Just three months later, in September, crowds returned to the famous royal residence as the Queen once again united the nation – this time in grief over her passing.

With the end of the Second Elizabethan Age came a long goodbye. Ten days of mourning and commemoration during which 250,000 people flocked to the Palace of Westminster to pay their respects at the coffin of the late monarch.

Among the mourners, presidents, prime ministers and dignitaries from around the world – 2,000 in all – gathered for the Queen’s funeral. The period of mourning saw a new king mourn publicly as family members paid tribute to the late monarch’s devotion and lifelong legacy.

The funeral arrangements, which had been the subject of much speculation for years, followed centuries of tradition and allowed many people, both at home and across the Commonwealth and the world, to mourn the death of the Queen. Thanks to decades of meticulous planning, the dawn of the new Carolean reign saw Charles III swiftly proclaimed before embarking on a whirlwind tour of each of the nations of the United Kingdom.

Previously unresolved issues such as what kind of role his wife Camilla would have in the future monarchy had been settled by the Queen in the months before her death. One example was her wish for her daughter-in-law to be known as Queen Consort « when the time comes » in a statement released in February, on the anniversary of her father’s death.

Elizabeth II had made several decisions in the twilight of her reign to try to ensure that the transition of power to her son was as seamless as possible. Another was to draw a line under the scandals surrounding Prince Andrew – who at the start of the year was still facing a protracted court battle in the United States over allegations of historical sexual abuse – by stripping him of his cherished titles and functions.

The Queen understood the monarchy was tainted by Andrew’s legal troubles and removing him from any chance of a future role in civic life likely helped assuage further criticism. Andrew then settled an undisclosed character out of court without admitting any wrongdoing and the case was closed. But, apparently understanding that the damage to her son’s reputation was irreparable, the Queen had once again shown that her institutional duties to the country came first.

With Charles III now on the throne, we are unlikely to see a reversal of this position. Andrew is still a member of the family and as such was present at Sandringham during the holidays, but the new king will not sign any kind of return to the royal fold for Andrew. He pointed this out by recently passing on Andrew’s old military titles to other clan members. In addition, the family advisers have, in recent years, advocated a lean monarchy and the king will want to maintain it in these austere times.

One issue the Queen was unable to resolve was the growing animosity between Prince Harry and Meghan and other family members. The Queen had vaguely pushed back against the claims during her Oprah interview, saying ‘memories may vary’ but they were still ‘much loved members of the family’. However, the bad blood between the Sussexes and the other members of the royal family remained until his death. And yes, we saw them get together briefly with the new Prince and Princess of Wales in Windsor to greet the mourners. But things are unlikely to have improved since the couple’s Netflix documentary was released earlier this month.

The six-hour series was an unfiltered account of family separation from Sussex’s perspective. And while most of the talking points covered old ground, the allegations of institutional gaslighting, bullying behavior and alleged stories in the British press against the couple will not be a time of year on which the family will remember fondly.

The palace’s response followed a proven method: silence. Hours after the release of the final part of the series, the Windsors pulled together at the Princess of Wales’ Christmas concert in London. While there was likely discontent behind palace walls over the barrage of negative headlines, the family opted against any form of retaliation and opted for a stoic appearance instead. The clear message: Keep calm and carry on. The Windsors’ lack of response to the series also indicated that they did not view it as detrimental to the institution.

Society will again be put under the microscope when Harry’s memoir is published in January and they will likely choose to handle this second salvo from Sussex in the same way. Keeping a dignified silence in the face of potentially damaging claims is by no means an easy option, but the king won’t want to get bogged down in family disagreements early in his reign. Instead, he’ll want to redirect public attention to the power of the monarchy as the family readjusts.

To say that 2022 has changed the royal family would be a monumental understatement. Few could have predicted how much change the year would bring. But 2023 won’t be much quieter. The royal diary for the next 12 months is already piling up and the redesigned family are hoping it will bring some much-needed stability.

With Charles on the throne, the new family dynamic comes under renewed scrutiny. Questions remain as to whether the new king can bridge the rift that has divided his children. But apart from the bustle of Windsor, the business of the monarchy will continue.

Among other things, next year will also bring the King’s first overseas tour – the first by a British sovereign since 2015. And then, of course, we have the coronation – royal events don’t get much bigger. that this and the king will want to use it to cement his position and that of the other working royals. Charles has expressed his desire to represent all races and religions and to protect Britain’s diversity – the invited congregation will reflect this. In doing so, he also hopes to channel his mother’s flair for unity and bring the country and the Commonwealth closer together as her reign begins.


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