What an historic royal year that was

Liz Truss meets The Queen.
The Queen greets then-Prime Minister Liz Truss, in what would come to be her final public engagement. Credit: PA

When 2022 got underway, Queen Elizabeth was still the longest serving Monarch in British history.

She hadn’t even reached her historic Platinum Jubilee. Also at the start of the year, William and Kate were still the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the issue of what Camilla would be called when Prince Charles ascended the throne remained unresolved.

Prince Harry and Meghan were still filming footage for their six-hour Netflix series and Prince Andrew had yet to settle with his accuser, Virginia Giuffre.

To put it mildly, a lot of things changed in Britain’s Royal Family in 2022 but, as the new year dawned, no one knew it would bring about such huge change.

The Queen and Prince Philip in 2007 at the Broadlands in Hampshire. Credit: PA

In her Christmas message last year, the late Queen Elizabeth said that life “consists of final partings as well as first meetings” and she paid tribute to her husband, Prince Philip.

They would miss his “familiar laugh” during the family celebrations, she said.

She also spoke of “passing the baton” which, looking back, was a very poignant phrase.

In the end, the Queen would only spend one Christmas without Philip, and this year, it is the new King who will lead the Royal Family as they meet at Sandringham in Norfolk for the traditional festive gathering.

King Charles gets a warm welcome from the crowds in Centenary Square in Bradford. Credit: PA

And it will be the King’s Christmas Message, his first ever, they will gather to watch at 3pm.

There will, of course, be a lot to discuss over Christmas lunch.

Foremost in their thoughts, as the family adjusts to the new order, will be the passing of Queen Elizabeth, their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

They will reflect on those ten days between her death at Balmoral Castle and the State Funeral in London followed by her burial in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

People file past the Queen's coffin during the lying-in-state at Westminster Hall. Credit: PA

The family might discuss the enormity of the procession which followed her coffin on that gun carriage, pulled by 140 Royal Navy sailors.

Or talk about how an estimated quarter of a million people queued along the River Thames to file past the coffin as the Queen was Lying in State in Westminster Hall.

Just a few short months before, the crowds had gathered in huge numbers on London’s streets for an entirely different reason: a celebration of the Queen’s 70-year reign.

Mourners queue near Lambeth Bridge to see the Queen lying in state. Credit: PA

A never-seen-before Platinum Jubilee for a British Monarch.

A jubilee which saw a party in front of Buckingham Palace involving Paddington Bear and a host of celebrities and performers.

A jubilee which encouraged the Queen to walk onto the the balcony of Buckingham Palace twice – once for Trooping the Colour, her birthday parade, and once for the conclusion of the pageant which had provided crowds with an eclectic show along London’s processional streets.

The Queen met Paddington Bear at Buckingham Palace Credit: Buckingham Palace/Studio Canal/BBC Studios/Heyday Films/PA

It would be her last balcony appearance ever at Buckingham Palace.

Next year, the new King will watch the RAF fly-past from the balcony when Charles marks his first Trooping the Colour as Sovereign in June.

Another familiar event which will look so different.

But 2022 had not started quietly for the Royal Family.

The moment of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee was actually reached on 6 February on what was, for seven decades, known as Accession Day.

Queen Elizabeth II with other members of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, to view the Platinum Jubilee flypast. Credit: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/PA Images

At Sandringham on the anniversary of her father’s death in 1952, the late Queen made a significant announcement about the future role of her daughter-in-law, Camilla.

For years, the Palace had ducked the issue of what the then Duchess of Cornwall would be called when her husband became King, fearful of the public reaction to her being known as “Queen Camilla”.

In a statement signed simply “Your Servant, Elizabeth R”, Queen Elizabeth said it was her “sincere wish” that Camilla would be known as Queen Consort “when that time comes”.

The last Queen Consort was the late Queen’s own mother, who was consort to King George VI.

To mark 70 years on the throne, the Queen said that Camilla would become Queen Consort when Charles is King. Credit: PA

It was all about Queen Elizabeth removing as many obstacles as she could for her son and to make the start of Charles’ reign as smooth as it could possibly be.

That was also the reason behind the Queen’s decision to help her son Andrew find the many millions of pounds he needed to pay his accuser, Virginia Giuffre.

No one in the Royal Family wanted a protracted court case in the US, during which the details of the Duke of York’s public and private life would be exposed in great detail.

Prince Andrew.

Prince Andrew always vehemently denied the allegations made by Ms Guiffre and the out of court settlement in February, days after the Queen marked her 70 years on the throne, was all about finding a way to end the damaging headlines.

Prince Andrew’s reputation is irretrievably damaged but, in the eyes of the law, he remains innocent of the claims made against him.

The Yorks are in Sandringham for the family gathering over the festive period, but don’t expect the King to offer his brother a way back into public life. 

Perhaps the conversation over Christmas drinks on the Norfolk estate will take a turn and analyse Harry and Meghan’s Netflix series.

The documentary shows never before seen shared moments. Credit: Netflix

Many of the most senior Royals have not watched it, but others in the family will have consumed some or all of the six hours of content.

The King and Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales have been fully briefed on what the Duke and Duchess of Sussex claimed but it would be a brave family member to broach the subject.

It was, after all, at Sandringham House in 2020, when the family held the summit on Harry and Meghan’s future and where, Harry claimed, his brother “shouted” at him and his father told mistruths while the late Queen sat there and “took it all in”.

It is not an episode on which any of participants “shall look back with undiluted pleasure” – to borrow a phrase from the late Queen.

The Prince and Princess of Wales made a three-day visit to Boston this year. Credit: Chris Jackson/PA

So, this Christmas, there is so much change for the nation, and for this family, to digest.

Next year will bring the King’s first overseas tour – a British monarch hasn’t made a foreign trip since the Queen went to Malta in 2015.

In May, Britain will stage its first Coronation since 1953.

Prince William and Kate will need to cement their position as the new Prince and Princess of Wales and fully take on his role, as the heir to the throne, as custodian of the Duchy of Cornwall.

Harry, Meghan, William and Kate view the floral tributes at Windsor Castle. Credit: PA

And the Palace will have the final hurdle to overcome with the King’s son and daughter-in-law, Harry and Meghan, as the Duke of Sussex releases his memoirs in January.

No one can accuse this family of taking the easy path.

It will not be a quiet year in the royal calendar, but 2023 will inevitably be a lot less busy than 2022.

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