Oh, how Queen Elizabeth must yearn for the days of Carole Middleton’s former job as an air hostess being made into a scandal.
Throughout her 65-year reign as Britain’s monarch, she has weathered more than her fair share of storms, but never has there been such a continuous wave of instability in such close succession. Even those with a passing interest in royals have become gripped by the goings on behind palace gates, but where did it all begin to unravel?
When: November 2019
It goes without saying that Prince Andrew’s friendship with Jeffrey Epstein, the convicted paedophile, and the accusations against him are not in the same league as the other lower tier scandals in comparison. But it was his downfall that marked the beginning of a series of events which made 2019 the queen’s second ‘Annus Horribilis’, which has poured into 2020.
Throughout the ensuing Epstein scandal, who was in jail on charges of child sex trafficking when he died by suicide in August Prince Andrew’s name was regularly mentioned alongside him. While he has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing, his friendship with Epstein was proof of - at best, poor judgement. Andrew and Epstein - and Ghislaine Maxwell - have been friends for decades and remained friends even after Epstein’s 2010 conviction for soliciting prostitution with underage girls.
In an extraordinary interview with BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis, Andrew, while seated in the gilded walls of Buckingham Palace, said he still did not regret their relationship. "The people that I met and the opportunities that I was given to learn, either by him or because of him, were actually very useful,” he said.
Throughout the exchange, he never once expressed sympathy for his victims and only repeated bizarre explanations as a means of denial for any alleged wrongdoing on his part. He denied improper conduct with teenagers because he claims he does not sweat,
has no recollection of meeting Virginia Roberts, who says she had sex with Andrew on three different occasions and does not engage in public displays of affection. And most famously, said he could not have engaged in inappropriate behaviour on one occasion as he was at a Pizza Express in Woking on the night in question.
The interview was an unmitigated disaster and unsanctioned by his mother, and it opened the floodgates of criticism, prompting more attention that ever into Andrew - ever the problem child - and the royal family’s questionable behaviour over the years, including ‘The Trouble with Andrew ’ as a 2011 Vanity Fair profile put it.
After the backlash, he retired from public life and was removed as patron for several charities and private organisations and has been largely hidden from the media - save for an appearance at church with his mother last month.
When: January 2020
In January, when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced their extraordinary decision to leave their positions as senior royals, it sent shockwaves throughout the world - including among family members and those in their inner circle. After less than two years as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, they called time on their public life in favour of a move to Canada with their son Archie to start life anew.
It was reported that Queen Elizabeth knew of their intention to leave, but was unaware they would be announcing on the night (reportedly in response to a scoop by The Sun) and was “deeply upset" by their decision to announce it so publicly and quickly after communicating it with her.
Prince William and Prince Charles are said to have had just a few minutes’ notice about the announcement, prompting crisis talks over the following week, which culminated in the ‘Sandringham Summit’; a sit-down between the ‘big four’ to iron out details of their exit.
Harry arrived hours earlier than his father and brother to appeal to his grandmother on a familial level and spoke at length about the effects the immense pressure that was put on him and his wife was having on their mental health.
They settled on a “transition period” to allow the couple to spend more time in Canada and move away from their full-time duties and set out a roadmap allowing them to eventually become private citizens, which will be up for review next year. The queen’s fondness for her grandson is well documented and she was said to be personally upset by their departure after providing both him and her granddaughter-in-law extensive support and bending the rules to make them both feel as welcome as possible.
During the chaos of the Megxit fall-out, the media coverage was frantic - each outlet aiming to outdo itself and out-scoop each other. What followed was an unmitigated mess of a public relations strategy, including the ongoing mismanagement of Meghan’s estrange father Thomas Markle, who has promised to give an interview every month until his daughter cracks and initiates contact.
He confirmed that he is ready to face his daughter in court as part of the defence for The Mail on Sunday, which Meghan is currently suing for alleged breach of copyright for publishing a private letter she sent her father. As recently as two weeks ago, he said he wants to apologise to Queen Elizabeth and the royal family.
As the Sussexes are carving out their next chapter, most of which involves identifying viable long-term income streams, Prince Harry reportedly made $1 million for speaking at an event hosted by JP Morgan in Miami.
When: January 2020
Before you ask, ‘Who?’, let me set the scene. Peter Phillips is Princess Anne’s eldest child and has earned the moniker, ‘The Queen’s favourite grandson’; a title which has been resurrected in recent days to legitimise the intensive reporting on his divorce announcement. Peter and his wife of 12 years Autumn announced on Tuesday their intention to split after it was leaked on Monday,
"They had reached the conclusion that this was the best course of action for their two children and ongoing friendship," the statement read. "The decision to divorce and share custody came about after many months of discussions and although sad, is an amicable one."
It’s reported that they notified the queen of their decision last summer and she urged them to take their time.
Peter and Autumn have hardly taken a central role in royal life, enjoying the same semblance of privacy as his sister Zara Tindall (née Phillips) without the pressure of a title, a purposeful decision made by their mother at their respective births. Autumn (née Kelly) was working as a management consultant when she met her now-husband in 2003, seemingly unaware of his royal connections.
Because of their ‘lesser’ status, they are not required to follow the usual royal divorce rules and released a statement via their own spokesperson instead of the Palace, as was done in the case of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and Prince Andrew and the Duchess of York.
"However, in the cases of the three divorces of the queen's children as well as Princess Margaret, they go through the same legal process as everyone else,” royal expert Marlene Koenig said.
When: May 2020
Royal weddings are by their nature, the easiest (but most expensive) way for the family to earn universally positive coverage. But Princess Beatrice’s impending wedding - which was confirmed as taking place on May 29 at Buckingham Palace - will be overshadowed by the overwhelming distaste for her father. Beatrice, who works at a software company, originally intended on a small wedding in Italy with fiancé Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi; but settled on a similarly low-key event at home in the UK.
Her sister Eugenie’s nuptials in November 2018 elevated the second-tier royals into the global spotlight and Eugenie’s decision to showcase her scoliosis surgery scar in a backless dress earned her kudos around the world. But Beatrice has always preferred the more glamorous side of royal life - access to A-listers and luxury holidays - and her wedding will be sullied by her father’s first public appearance since the car crash interview.