Royals in 2013: A good news year for the modern monarchy

Prince George was born on July 23 this year. Photo: Jason Bell/CAMERA PRESS

At the beginning of July the first television cameras, from an American network, moved into position outside the private Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital, Paddington.

By the time the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge emerged on July 23 with their new son, Prince George, there were hundreds of us there. The world was once again watching the Windsors.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaving the Lindo Wing with Prince George. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

George Alexander Louis, now third in line to the throne, had been born the day before, at 4.24 in the afternoon, weighing 8lbs 6ozs.

His arrival continued an extraordinary sequence of good news for the royal family which had started with the engagement of William and Kate in 2010 and continued with their wedding the following year and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Prince George's arrival was the latest bit of good news for the royal family. Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire

As we all waited outside the Lindo Wing for George to arrive, I bumped into Graham Smith, spokesman for the anti-monarchy action group Republic. He wished the new baby well, but believed our frenzied media activity did not reflect the interest of the majority of working people in Britain who were simply trying to get on with their lives in hard economic times.

I agree with Graham that those of us who report on the royals do sometimes lose sight of the opposition they attract. But on that July evening, as William and Kate presented their son to the cameras and ITV extended its news bulletin, seven and a half million people stayed tuned in, part of an overall British audience of around 12 million.

What happened captured the spirit of the modern monarchy.

Three decades earlier, Prince William's own parents had posed briefly for pictures in the same spot after he was born. But now, William and Kate walked over to the cameras and gave an impromptu press conference, clearly delighted to talk about their son.

They weren't the only royals in the news in 2013, of course.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh attended a service at Westminster Abbey to mark her coronation anniversary. Credit: Jack Hill/The Times/PA Archive

The Queen marked the 60th anniversary of her coronation with a grand service at Westminster Abbey. Prince Philip was back in hospital but soon back on the road, including a trip to mark Armistice Day at Ypres in Belgium.

And then there was Harry.

William's younger brother is no stranger to unwelcome media attention and he gave us his views on that in no uncertain terms at the end of his tour of duty as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan.

But if the newspapers have occasionally disapproved of Harry's behaviour, it hasn't dented his popularity with the public. Afghanistan certainly enhanced his standing, and so too did his 200 mile trek to the South Pole with injured service personnel.

Prince Harry did a 200 mile trek to the South Pole. Credit: Walking With The Wounded

As the royal family plans 2014, I would expect to see Prince Harry in an even more prominent role. The Queen loved his official Jubilee tour of the Caribbean in 2012 and there will be more to come.

Prince George, meanwhile, is almost certain to join his parents on a big April visit to Australia and New Zealand. It will be a huge media event.

Officials at Buckingham Palace have been preparing the Queen's diary for 2014. It is unlikely to include a major overseas tour - that role is now passing to Prince Charles - but the expression "slowing down" is guaranteed to irritate her staff. The diary, they insist, will be full.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh after attending a Christmas Day church service. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Concerns obviously remain about the health of Prince Philip, who turns 93 in 2014. He enjoyed the annual Christmas lunch with Buckingham Palace staff and was, by all accounts, in top form.

The expression "in the pink" was being used.

My royal highlight of 2013? Not one of the grand occasions or the great media events, but a short trip to Paris on Eurostar in May.

The Duchess of Cornwall during a visit to the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Credit: Chris Radburn/PA Archive

It was the first solo overseas tour - and, in her own words, "probably the last!" - by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. There was no media circus, no front page headlines, no crowds lining the streets. Just relaxed, good fun. It's been a hard road for Camilla to win over a once suspicious, if not hostile public. But she's walked it with relentlessly good humour.