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The Royal A-Z of 2020


The end of the year is traditionally a time for reflection, for looking back, for taking stock. This year, with its many and ever changing challenges, is no different. We’ll all be glad to leave 2020 behind and as we prepare to show it the door, in the hope of better things to come, Royal Central takes one last look back at the royal year just gone.

A is for Aiko and Akishino whose roles in the Japanese line of succession again caused debate in 2020. Aiko is barred from taking the throne even though the princess is the only child of Emperor Naruhito. Instead, her uncle, Akishino, was this year formally declared as heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne in low key ceremonies in November. The event was criticised by those who want women to gain succession rights in Japan.

B is for Blue Beret, presented to Princess Elisabeth of Belgium by her father at the end of her month long military initiation training. Elisabeth, now 19, is the first Belgian princess to undergo military training in a course that is set to last until August 2021. The princess, first in line to the Belgian throne, has also taken on high profile engagements with her family during a difficult year and proved herself to be one of the most confident heirs in Europe.

C is, of course, for coronavirus which has dominated all lives for most of this year. Several royals including the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia of Sweden and Prince Joachim of Belgium have been diagnosed with the virus. The impact of Covid on royal life has been huge, changing the face of modern engagements overnight.

D is for Delphine, Europe’s newest princess. The artist was given royal status by a court in the autumn after King Albert II of Belgium finally admitted he was her father following several years of court cases. Delphine was later welcomed into the Royal Palace in Brussels by her half brother, King Philippe, whose kindness and dignity in the face of a difficult situation for both of them won him new fans.

E is for Eighty. The Queen of Denmark celebrated this milestone birthday in April 2020 in her very own way. Margrethe II had expected to welcome the crowned heads of Europe to Copenhagen for glittering galas. Instead, she was snapped in her dressing gown as her staff bubble sang Happy Birthday to her in a lockdown celebration.

F is Fact versus Fiction as a row broke out over the depiction of the relationship between Charles and Diana in Season Four of The Crown. The narrative depicted a heartless heartbreaker of a Prince and a helpless heroine of a Princess and led to calls for a disclaimer to be placed on the programme reminding viewers that the drama wasn’t an accurate depiction of life behind Palace walls. In Norway, the brother in law of King Harald also went on the attack after a drama based on royal life in World War Two led

G is for Greece which is not a word the Dutch royals want to hear again any time soon. Two visits to the country in 2020 got them into trouble. Firstly, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima were seen hugging a restaurant owner in a photograph despite social distancing measures being in place. Just weeks later, the whole family headed back to the country for another holiday just as the Netherlands was placed under tighter restrictions because of the pandemic. The King and Queen’s decision to fly back with their youngest daughter while their two older girls remained was widely criticised and a video apology did little to lessen the anger with royal popularity ratings plummeting.

H is for Heirs to the throne. In 2020, the first in lines had to step up in several European nations as the coronavirus pandemic put the older generation into quarantine. In Sweden, the summer celebrations fell largely to Crown Princess Victoria as King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia were forced to stay indoors. In Denmark, Crown Prince Frederik took on a wide range of engagements as his mother shielded. And in Norway, Crown Prince Haakon had several spells as regent as his father, King Harald, stayed inside palace walls, firstly for protection from the pandemic and then, later, to recuperate following a successful heart operation.

I is for Iconic Phrases, of which the Queen has given us several this year. We Will Meet Again’’, one of the stand out phrases in the Queen’s extraordinary broadcast at the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, immediately whirled its way around the world. Her intonement just a few weeks later, during a speech marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day, to ‘’never despair, never give up’’ became just as oft repeated. Both turned this year into another major milestone in the already historic reign of Elizabeth II.

J is for Jubilee. The Grand Duke of Luxembourg marked twenty years since his accession in October 2020 with low key celebrations, affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing controversy around his court raised in the Waringo Report. The UK government announced plans for a four day holiday in 2022 to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee when Elizabeth II becomes the first British monarch to celebrate 70 years of rule.

K is for Knighthood, and in particular the special award bestowed on Captain Sir Tom Moore this summer by the Queen in a moving ceremony at Windsor. The centenarian was made a knight for his fundraising work for the NHS, bringing in over £33 million by walking round his garden. His story became one of the most inspirational in a difficult year and the sight of the Queen knighting him on a summer’s afternoon is one of the royal images of 2020.

L is for Long Way from Home which is where  King Juan Carlos found himself in August after going into self-imposed exile. The former monarch left Spain before announcing he was quitting the country he ruled for almost forty years and then left everyone guessing for two weeks before confirming he had set up base in the United Arab Emirates. His already low popularity ratings tumbled even further.

M is for Mediterranean, something which Princess Charlene crossed in September as she took part in the third annual water bike challenge to raise funds for her Foundation. Charlene was part of Team Serenity for the 180 kilometre race which brought in over 350,000 euros for work around water safety. The royal’s crew beat Team Notorious by 14 minutes in the race.

N is for Nursing, a profession that Princess Sofia of Sweden supported during the coronavirus pandemic. The princess trained to help in hospitals as the virus took hold and has spent several months offering support to medical staff through her work cleaning and preparing food. She ended up contracting the virus herself but had recovered by the time she announced her third pregnancy at the end of 2020.

O is for Operation with King Harald of Norway successfully undergoing surgery on a heart valve in the autumn. Harald’s health gave cause for concern when he was rushed to hospital where doctors discovered a replacement heart valve put in fifteen years earlier needed replacing. Harald took several weeks off to recover and is now back to full health. Prince Joachim of Denmark also underwent surgery in the summer, recovering well from an operation for a blood clot on his brain.

P is for Pilar, the Spanish Infanta who died in January 2020. Maria del Pilar Alfonsa Juana Victoria Luisa Ignacia y Todos los Santos was the older sister of King Juan Carlos and the aunt of King Felipe. She had been a staunch supporter of her younger brother who looked devastated at her funeral.

Q is for Quiet Weddings which became a new royal trend in 2020. In July 2020, Princess Beatrice wed Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi in a secret ceremony which was done and dusted by the time it was announced. In September, Princess Alexandra’s granddaughter, Flora Ogilvy, followed suit and wed Timothy Vesterberg before announcing the news. The year ended with the low key marriage of Prince Philippos of Greece and Nina Nastassja Flohr in St. Moritz with just their fathers as witnesses. The wedding was made public days later.

R is for Royal Train. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hopped on board for a three day tour of the UK at the end of the year to show their support for frontline workers in the coronavirus pandemic.

S is for Summit, held at Sandringham. In January 2020, the Queen summoned the Duke of Sussex to her Norfolk residence after the surprise announcement that he and the Duchess of Sussex were stepping back as senior royals to pursue financial independence. The discussions that followed, also involving the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, led to a deal that would be reviewed within the year.

T is for Tin, the traditional gift to mark ten years of marriage. Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden celebrated that anniversary in 2020 but instead of swapping cans, they treated everyone else to a set of stunning official images and behind the scenes snaps from their wedding.

U is for Ugyen Wanchuk, the brand new royal baby welcomed by Bhutan in 2020. The second son of King Jigme Khesar and Queen Jetsun Pema arrived on March 19th with his names officially revealed on June 30th. His full name is Jigme Ugyen Wanchunk but he will be known as Gyalsey Ugyen Wanchuk. He is second in line to the throne behind his brother, Gyalsey Namgyel Wangchuk who is now four.

V is for Videocall which, in 2020, has become a staple in royal engagements. Since the pandemic changed everyone’s lives, royals around the world have taken to video to hold meetings and show support for organisations they otherwise would visit in person. It’s a new way of royal living but is it sustainable in the long term?

W is for Waringo Report, the in depth investigation into behaviour at the Grand Ducal Court in Luxembourg which found a culture of fear affecting staff.

X is for Xmas speeches which this year included a record breaking effort from King Felipe of Spain. As anticipation grew that he might use his annual message to distance himself from his disgraced father, over ten million people in Spain tuned in to hear him talk on Christmas Eve. It was the biggest ever audience for a royal festive message in the country.

Y is for Young Star in the Making as Luxembourg welcomed a royal baby. Charles Jean Philippe Joseph Marie Guillaume, first child of the Hereditary Grand Duke and Duchess, arrived on May 10th with his parents almost bursting with pride as they presented their son. Charles is second in line to the Grand Ducal throne and will one day rule Luxembourg.

Z is for Zara, Mrs Tindall to be precise, who had happy news to end the year. In 2021, she will welcome her third child. Her husband, Mike, has already expressed his wishes for a son to join their two daughters. The next twelve months will reveal whether his hopes have come true.

About author

Lydia Starbuck is Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton, a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. June has been a reporter, producer and editor, picking up several awards over the years. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.