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FeaturesThe Queen

The Queen’s year in review: A year of heartbreak and difficult circumstances

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with their great grandchildren
Photo by The Duchess of Cambridge

2021 has brought a year of joy, personal heartbreak, and difficult circumstances for many people worldwide, and The Queen is no exception. As the year comes to a close, Royal Central is looking back on Her Majesty’s year and all the highs, lows, and little moments in between.


January started the year with business as usual as the United Kingdom endured a third national lockdown due to the global health crisis. During this time, Her Majesty granted permission for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to use Sandringham House as a temporary office as they isolated at Anmer Hall alongside their three children.

Following the inauguration of President Joe Biden on 20 January, The Queen sent a message of support to the 46th President of the United States. Shortly after the inauguration, it was reported The Queen would meet with the President in the summer, making President Biden the 12th President who has met Her Majesty and the 13th to take office during her reign.

The month of January would end on a more sombre note as two of The Queen’s close friends, Lord and Lady Vestey, died within weeks of each other. Lord Vestey, who died at the age of 79, served as Her Majesty’s Master of the Horse. A few weeks before his death, Lady Vestey passed away at the age of 71. The couple has been known to be an integral part of The Queen’s racing circles. 


February would turn into a difficult month for The Queen as it started with newspaper reports claiming The Queen lobbied the government in the 1970s. According to documents published in the Guardian, personal lawyers for Her Majesty successfully persuaded ministers to change a draft to conceal her private wealth – a claim which has been denied. 

On 9 February would mark the birth of Her Majesty’s ninth great-grandchild, August Philip Hawke Brooksbank, the son of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. In the days after his birth and following the pregnancy announcement of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s second child, it was revealed The Queen was set to ask the Duke and Duchess to relinquish their remaining patronages and honorary military appointments as they step back from their roles as senior royals. 

In the second half of the month, 99-year-old Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was hospitalised, spending multiple weeks in the hospital. As the Duke continued to recover, Her Majesty continued with engagements. During these engagements, The Queen, who received the jab at the beginning of the year, spoke on the importance of getting vaccinated: “Well once you’ve had the vaccine, you have a feeling of, you know, you’re protected, which I think is very important. As far as I can make out, it was quite harmless. It was very quick. I’ve had lots of letters from people who were very surprised at how easy it was to get the vaccine. And the jab didn’t hurt at all.”


On 7 March, the Royal Family made headlines across the globe as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex sat down for a tell-all interview with American media personality Oprah Winfrey. While the Duke and Duchess made comments criticising the monarchy, the Duchess would make it clear how wonderful The Queen has been to her. Meghan said The Queen made her “feel welcomed,” and their joint engagement to Chester in 2018 was memorable for personal and professional reasons. Following the interview, The Queen refused to sign off on a Buckingham Palace statement addressing the interview. 

To end the month, The Queen welcomed two new additions to her household, a duo of corgi puppies. It’s believed the pups were gifted as they appeared to be the first canines to not be direct descendants from the monarch’s first-ever dog, Susan. 


On 9 April, the Duke of Edinburgh died at the age of 99. Following the announcement of his death, The Queen described her husband of 73 years as “leaving a huge void” in her life. A spokesperson for Buckingham Palace said upon the announcement of his death: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.”

In the weeks following his death, the country went into a national mourning period. The Duke was laid to rest at St George’s Chapel on 17 April. Because of the global health crisis, social distancing measures were in place, and only 30 people were allowed to attend the service. 

On 21 April, The Queen celebrated her 95th birthday, her first birthday in nearly eight decades without Prince Philip by her side. While this was a milestone birthday, the occasion was a very muted occasion with no celebrations. 


In May, Her Majesty headed to Balmoral for an out-of-season visit to mourn the loss of her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip. Rather than staying in Balmoral Castle, The Queen stayed in Craigowan Lodge – a stone house located one mile from the castle. 

There would also be fresh heartbreak for The Queen has one of her beloved dorgi puppies died at the age of five months old. Fergus was gifted to The Queen earlier in the year alongside another puppy named Muick. According to The Sun, The Queen was “devastated” following the death of Fergus.


A year off from her Platinum Jubilee, Buckingham Palace announced a bumper programme of celebrations to mark The Queen’s 70 years on the throne. Her Majesty will be the first British monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee as she succeeded her father on 6 February 1952 when she was only 25-years-old. 

As June continued, The Queen planted a commemorative rose on 10 June to mark what would have been her husband’s 100th birthday. A deep pink rose bred by the Royal Horticultural Society – of which The Queen is President, the Duke of Edinburgh Rose was planted in the East Terrace Garden at Windsor Castle. 

As the global health crisis continued, The Queen was joined by her cousin, the Duke of Kent, for Trooping the Colour at Windsor Castle. Scaled back for a second consecutive year, the event was held in the Quadrangle to celebrate the monarch’s 95th birthday. Later that same week, the Quadrangle would play host as The Queen welcomed President Joe Biden and the First Lady at Windsor Castle. Before the month was over, The Queen travelled to Scotland with her daughter, The Princess Royal, and her grandson, the Duke of Cambridge, for Holyrood Week. 

The end of Summer/ Early Autumn

In late July, The Queen arrived at Balmoral Castle for the start of her annual summer holiday. This would be the first time the monarch spent the summer at Balmoral without the Duke of Edinburgh in her life. In prior years, the Prince would usually join Her Majesty at the Scottish castle in mid-August. During her summer stay, The Queen hosts a variety of guests, but engagements are rarely carried out.

In September, following her summer holiday, The Queen celebrated after her horse, Fresh Fancy, won his race at Kempton Park. This win would mark Her Majesty’s most successful racing season in many decades. During the year, The Queen enjoyed two winners over jumps, taking her annual winning to a total of 32.


During an October engagement in Scotland, The Queen publicly spoke on the loss of her husband and the times the couple enjoyed in the country. As the 95-year-old opened the new session of the Scottish Parliament, she said: “I have spoken before of my deep and abiding affection for this wonderful country, and of the many happy memories Prince Philip and I always held of our time here.”

She continued: “It is often said that it is the people that make a place, and there are few places where this is truer than in Scotland, as we have seen in recent times.”

Near the end of the month and following a private hospitalisation, the monarch cancelled a series of engagements, cancellations in which the palace said were not related to the global health crisis. Engagements on the diary cancelled included a visit to Glasgow for the COP26 Climate Change Summit. 

During her period of rest, The Queen carried out light duties, including a number of digital addresses and meetings. The recommended rest period would extend into November, causing Her Majesty not to attend the annual Festival of Remembrance. With a goal to make it to Remembrance Sunday commemorations at the Cenotaph, the monarch would make a last-minute cancellation after it was announced she sprained her back. This is only the seventh time in history The Queen has not been present at the service during her seven-decade reign. The Queen was in good spirits to attend the joint christening of her great-grandchildren, August Brooksbank and Lucas Tindall, at the Royal Chapel of All Saint in Windsor later in the month. 

Also, in November, the country of Barbados became a republic and removed Her Majesty as Head of State.


December started with The Queen receiving the prestigious Ruth Bader Ginsburg Women of Leadership Award. The award, named after the late US Supreme Court Justice, is presented annually to a woman who has dedicated her life to public service and creating a change in society.

As the Christmas holiday approached, it was announced The Queen’s annual Christmas visit to Sandringham Estate had been cancelled following a sharp spike in COVID-19 infection rates across the United Kingdom. A spokesperson noted this was a personal decision after careful consideration, reflecting a precautionary approach. Rather than travelling up to Norfolk, The Queen will spend the holiday at Windsor, marking the second year in a row that The Queen has spent her holiday at the castle.

About author

My name is Sydney Zatz and I am a University of Iowa graduate. I graduated with a degree in journalism and sports studies, and a minor in sport and recreation management. A highlight of my college career was getting the chance to study abroad in London and experiencing royal history firsthand. I have a passion for royals, royal history, and journalism, which led me to want to write for Royal Central.