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British Royals

2016 – A Look Back at the Royal Year

Let’s take a look back at the royal year of 2016.

The Queen celebrated another milestone year, when on 21 April, she turned 90-years-old. On that day, 1,000 beacons were lit across the United Kingdom, including one at Windsor lit by Her Majesty.

Her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, spoke before she lit the beacon, saying, “But this, ladies and gentleman, is a very special occasion and this beacon that Her Majesty is about to light will also represent – as it lights other beacons across the nation – the love and affection with which you are held throughout this country and the Commonwealth.”

Her Majesty’s birthday was celebrated throughout the spring, with beacons lit on her actual birthday, a weekend of celebrations at Windsor Castle in May – culminating with the Royal Windsor Horse Show – and then Trooping the Colours, a service of Thanksgiving, and the Patron’s Lunch in June.

The Queen quipped that “How I will feel if people are still singing Happy Birthday to me in December remains to be seen.”

The Duke of Edinburgh celebrated his 95th birthday on 10 June but expressed his wish that his birthday does not detract from The Queen’s weekend of celebrations.

On 20 December, Her Majesty stepped down as patron of 25 organisations – a drop in the glass considering that she has over 600 patronages. Other senior members of the Royal Family have taken over to ensure a smooth transition for these patronages.

Her Majesty relinquished patronage of the Holocaust Day Memorial Trust, Royal Institute of Great Britain, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Battersea Dogs Home, Barnardo’s, Royal School of Needlework, Royal African Society, Welsh Rugby Union, Amateur Swimming Association, Action for Children, All England Land Tennis and Croquet Club Wimbledon, Lawn Tennis Association, Blind Veterans UK, Rugby Football Union, Rugby Football League, Edinburgh International Festival, Sport and Recreation Alliance, British Cycling Federation, NSPCC, Royal Navy and Royal Marines Children’s Fund, British Science Association, Institute of Civil Engineers, Animal Health Trust, Royal Geographical Society, and Save the Children UK.

On 21 December, The Queen and Prince Philip delayed their annual trip to Sandringham as both were suffering from severe head colds and under doctor’s orders not to travel. The next day they departed for Sandringham by helicopter instead of their usual trip via King’s Cross, but The Queen still missed the Christmas morning church service due to illness.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated Christmas with the Middleton Family and were spotted taking Prince George and Princess Charlotte to a church service at St Mark’s Church in Englefield.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary on 29 April.

The couple undertook several overseas tours this year. In April, the couple travelled to India and Bhutan, and in late September, they toured British Columbia and the Yukon, and brought along Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Their tour of India ended with a trip to the Taj Mahal, a notable reminiscence of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who was photographed there solo in 1992.

The Duchess of Cambridge made her first solo overseas trip to the Netherlands in September for a day of engagements in The Hague and Rotterdam. She visited the Mauritshuis Museum and saw Vermeer paintings. The Duchess also paid a visit to King Willem-Alexander.

The Duchess was meant to have travelled solo to Malta in late 2014, however, she was forced to cancel when she experienced hyperemesis gravidarum again at the beginning of her second pregnancy.

As for the young Cambridges, Prince George started nursery school in January at the Westacre Montessori School Nursery. The Duke and Duchess released pictures of their son to mark his first day of school, which were taken by Catherine. Princess Charlotte made her first official public appearance during the Trooping the Colour flypast.

Prince George met two heads of state this year, starting with U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama when the couple dined at Kensington Palace with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. In widely circulated pictures, the young prince is seen playing on a rocking horse and shaking the President’s hand while wearing a tiny, embroidered robe.

At the White House Press Corps Dinner, Obama quipped, “It’s not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders they have been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bath robe. That was a slap in the face. A clear breach of protocol.”

In October, Prince George was introduced to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau but was too shy to shake – or high-five – his proffered hand.

Prince Harry visited Nepal in March and then visited Florida in May for the Invictus Games. He later visited Toronto after it was announced that the 2017 Invictus Games would be held in the city, and in late November and early December, he visited the Caribbean.

In the summer, he made international headlines for taking an HIV test live on the Royal Family’s Facebook Page in a bid to encourage others to do the same.

In November, it was revealed that Prince Harry had been in a relationship with actress Meghan Markle since August. The Prince stunned the world when he released an unprecedented statement condemning the media for its treatment of Markle and confirming the relationship at the same time.

“Prince Harry is worried about Ms Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into the relationship with him that Ms Markle should be subjected to such a storm. He knows commentators will say ‘this is the price he has to pay’ and that ‘this is all part of the game’. He strongly disagrees. This is not a game – it’s her life and his.”

The statement, issued by Kensington Palace, can be read in full here.

The couple has been spotted in Toronto and London, most recently the week before Christmas, when they were photographed buying a Christmas tree, and it was reported that she’d stayed with him at his cottage at Kensington Palace.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall undertook several overseas tours, most notably to Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Their week-long trip in early November provided over 50 engagements for the couple. The Royal Couple also visited Croatia, France, Ireland, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia.

New photo of the Queen and Prince Charles were released in mid-December to mark the end of her 90th year.

It was reported in the summer that Princess Eugenie is moving out of the apartment she shares with her sister at St James’s Palace and into Ivy Cottage at Kensington Palace. Rumours persist that she will announce her engagement to long-time boyfriend in the new year, a claim the Royal Family has denied.

A reported rift between Prince Charles and Prince Andrew hit the press in October, when it was reported that the Duke of York wanted his daughters, Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, to become full-time royals, but that Prince Charles wanted a streamlined Royal Family and wanted The Queen to intervene. It was reported that the Queen sided with Prince Charles although she did not want to push her granddaughters aside.

In early December, the Duke of York released an unprecedented statement denying the feud and the allegations, saying in part, “As a father, my wish for my daughters is for them to be modern working young women, who happen to be Members of the Royal Family, and I am delighted to see them building their careers. When they do support the Royal Family in its work this is very much appreciated by my Family and most importantly by these organisations and to those whom their participation makes such a difference to their lives.”

It wasn’t just a year for real-life royals. Victoria and The Crown premiered on ITV and Netflix respectively to rave reviews. Victoria will premiere on PBS in early January and traces the early reign of Queen Victoria. A second season was commissioned shortly before the first series ended. The Crown, meanwhile, is meant to be a six season look at the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

In her annual Christmas Message, The Queen talked about hope and inspiration, saying, “But to be inspirational you don’t have to save lives or win medals. I often draw strength from meeting ordinary people doing extraordinary things: volunteers, carers, community organisers and good neighbours; unsung heroes whose quiet dedication makes them special.”

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.