Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee year begins this month. On 6 February 1952, her father King George VI died in his sleep at Sandringham and Princess Elizabeth, thousands of miles away in the Kenyan bush, became queen.
During her 70-year reign Queen Elizabeth II has witnessed some of the greatest changes in history with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, by her side. Last February he was admitted to hospital and stayed for a month before returning to Windsor Castle, where he died on 9 April. His funeral was scaled down because of the pandemic restrictions, but this spring there will be a thanksgiving service at Westminster Abbey to commemorate his extraordinary life.
In her annual Christmas message, the Queen paid a deeply personal tribute to her ‘beloved Philip’. She explained how she and the rest of the family had readied themselves for their first Christmas without him and that his familiar laugh would be sadly missed.
‘His sense of service, intellectual curiosity and capacity to squeeze fun out of any situation were all irrepressible. That mischievous, enquiring twinkle was as bright at the end as when I first set eyes on him. But life, of course, consists of final partings as well as first meetings; and as much as I and my family miss him, I know he would want us to enjoy Christmas.’
With Sandringham cancelled at the eleventh hour, the Queen spent Christmas with several members of her family at Windsor Castle. Among others she was joined by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex, all of whom attended a Christmas morning service at St George’s Chapel. The Princess Royal, however, was at Gatcombe Park as her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, had contracted Covid-19.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex remained in California but there is no doubt that, however troublesome sections of the media perceive them to be, the Queen will welcome Harry, Meghan and Archie and the great-granddaughter she is yet to meet, Lilibet, in due course. It is nearly two years since they ceased to be working members of the royal family in their quest for an independent life. Last year they signed a four-book deal with Penguin Random House worth a potential £29 million. Meghan is said to be writing a ‘wellness guide’ as part of the contract, while Harry’s book, about which there has been much conjecture, will be published this autumn. It may be uncontentious, but is unlikely to make comfortable reading for the royal family.
Meghan, meanwhile, has spent much of the past two years locked in a bitter legal battle with Associated Newspapers following the publication of extracts from a letter to her father. She won the case in December when Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls, decreed that ‘the duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter. Those contents were personal, private and not matters of legitimate public interest.’ Meghan hailed the ruling as ‘a victory not just for me, but for anyone who has ever felt scared to stand up for what’s right’.
As 2021 drew to a close Buckingham Palace announced that the Duchess of Cornwall had been chosen personally by the Queen to become a Royal Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. All being well, we will see Camilla take part in the Garter Day procession at Windsor Castle in June.