Annus Horribilis Battle Royale: 1992 vs 2022

1992 saw the Elizabeth II, Queen of England’s Ruby Jubilee, a celebration of forty years on the throne. The event saw widespread celebration and festivities across Britain and the Commonwealth. The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, undertook a royal tour of Canada and Australia. Galas were held, coins were minted, street parties were celebrated, poems were composed, and makers of souvenir mugs were very happy indeed. Despite all this, for the queen herself, it was not a good year. In fact, it was so awful that it has its own term to separate it from every other year of the queen’s enduring reign.

1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents, it has turned out to be an annus horribilis.

Queen Elizabeth in a speech at London’s Guildhall November 24th 1992

Amongst all the pomp and circumstance the queen faced some trying personal circumstances. Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, separated. This was shortly followed by the publication of intimate photographs of the Duchess sunbathing topless having her toes kissed by a man presumed to be her lover. Princess Anne and her husband, Mark Phillips, divorced after both had been romantically linked to other people. In the same year Anne would go on to marry her lover, Timothy Laurence, but the two had to do so in Scotland seeing as the Church in England didn’t permit the remarriage of divorcees. Meanwhile, Prince Charles and Princess Diana were still married but their marital problems were being widely publicised in the media. Diana herself published a tell-all book detailing Charles’ affairs notably with Camilla Parker-Bowles, but details of her own affairs were then leaked through recorded tapes. The announcement of their separation rounded out a year of bad news and was released just two weeks after a fire gutted the queen’s home of Windsor Castle.

The fire at Windsor Castle in November 1992

It wasn’t a good year.

2022 is Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. It marks seventy years since she took the throne and makes her the longest reigning British monarch in history. There will be (pandemic allowing) street parties, mass celebrations, poems written, souvenir mugs, and we get to look forward to a new dessert created in honour of the occasion. At time of writing, however, it has already been an exceptionally trying year for the queen on a personal level, and it’s only February.

What should have been an auspicious year did not get off to an auspicious start. The queen began the year recovering from an illness that had seen her seek medical attention just before Christmas. During her recuperation, a man was arrested in the grounds of Windsor Castle claiming that he was going to kill the queen, while the Jubilee year threatened to be completely overshadowed by the negative attention surrounding Prince Andrew. All in all, not the best way to see in the year.

Prince Andrew began 2022 en route to a civil case for sexual assault against Virginia Giuffre. His lawyers’ attempts to have the case dismissed failed and on the 4th January it was determined that the case would go ahead. Shortly after this, he was stripped of all his royal patronage and military affiliations after a letter was sent to the queen demanding the same. As such, while he retains the title of prince and Duke of York, he will no longer be allowed to use the title of HRH nor will he ever be reinstated to any of his previous honours.

The fact that a legal case of this magnitude was able to be brought against one of the most senior members of the royal family is unprecedented. The fact that it was brought from another country will also no doubt have lasting legal repercussions regarding the status of the royal family when it comes to future actions.

After making headlines with his incredibly damning statements regarding Giuffre’s character, Prince Andrew brought a halt to proceedings when he reached a settlement with her, adding that he never intended to malign her character. He insists that he is innocent of any accusations brought against him, had only the briefest of meetings with Ghislaine Maxwell who has been found guilty of trafficking Giuffre among others, and maintains that he has never met Giuffre. To that end, Prince Andrew has reached a settlement thought to head into the area of ten million pounds. The amount remains unspecified as does the means by which it will be paid.

Definitely not pictured: Prince Andrew, Virginia Guiffre, and Ghislaine Maxwell

Allegations of sexual assault against a trafficked minor certainly trumps his separation from Sarah Ferguson in 1992 and might be enough alone to colour the year, but there is far more going on for the royal family, and about the only positive things have been their recent covid tests. In the last two weeks, Prince Charles tested positive for covid-19 shortly before his wife, Camilla, and his mother, the queen, followed suit after coming into contact with him. If the worst happens, there’ll be at least one group claiming regicide.

Charles and Camilla also garnered attention after the queen referred to them in her Accession Day speech.

I remain eternally grateful for, and humbled by, the loyalty and affection that you continue to give me.  And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me; and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.

The Queen’s Accession Day message 5th February 2022

When Camilla married Prince Charles in 2005, it was said that she wouldn’t take the title of Queen Consort and would instead be the first woman in Britain to be known as Princess Consort. Her role in the breakdown of Charles’ marriage to Princess Diana was thought to be an obstruction to her ever becoming known as Queen. Charles himself has retained a degree of unpopularity from his treatment of Diana and never improved his public image enough to suggest it for himself. Despite this, in 2018 the website of Clarence House removed all mention of ‘Princess Consort’.

Historically, the title of the monarch’s consort has been a matter of debate in the UK Parliament but recent statements from the government say that under law, Camilla will become queen automatically when her husband becomes king. Apparently, to do otherwise would require new legislation to be voted on which seems to make the queen’s statement redundant. If Camilla was always going to be called Queen then the current queen wouldn’t need to offer an opinion one way or the other, however, it’s clear that the announcement was meant to gauge how the public might react to the decision. If we use the weather vane that is social media, we see that the reaction was not favourable in many quarters.

In fact, certain elements of the media were quick to jump on Prince Harry’s lack of affirmative public statement regarding the title as proof that he was left “fuming in rage” as opposed to Prince William whose official Instagram account ‘liked’ the post on the Royal Family’s account. Is there a greater way to show one’s approval?

The British media of course can always be counted on to drag Harry and his wife, Meghan, over the smallest and slightest thing, though the connections between the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust (of which Harry used to be President) and BetterUp (the coaching firm that currently employs Harry as CIO) have gone relatively unmentioned. In the meantime, Harry is struggling to find a way to return to the UK from America with his wife and children. Arguments between Harry, the Home Office, and the Metropolitan Police, over red tape regarding security arrangements for their protection prevent them from travelling to the UK. As a result, the queen continues to wait before she can meet the most recent addition to her family; Harry and Megan’s daughter Lilibet, named for the queen herself.

To date, the only photograph of the Sussex family with baby Lilibet released for Christmas 2021

Of course, the true hardship is that this is the queen’s first year facing personal struggles without her husband of seventy-three years. The first anniversary of Prince Philip’s death will fall on the 9th April and will no doubt be an awful experience, especially when contrasted with the parties and celebrations that will come a couple of months later. We also have Harry’s tell-all book to look forward to which will apparently “shake the monarchy to the core” which will be particularly impressive given that one of the queen’s own son has recently settled out of court on charges of sexual assault.

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