Births, a death, controversial court cases and one explosive interview… the Royal Family have had what they might call an ‘annus memorabilis’ as they continued to fascinate us throughout 2021.
The Queen may well be head of the family but Harry and Meghan were the most searched-for royals on Yahoo Search this year.
Despite leaving the regal rollercoaster to live a more ‘private life’ in the US, they have barely been out of the headlines, not least thanks to their unprecedented interview with Oprah Winfrey in March.
The death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh in April at the age of 99 made him the third most searched for royal while Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge – always a favourite – came fourth.
But who else appears in the list and what have been the biggest royal events of the year?
The Duchess of Cambridge turned 39 on 9 January and Kensington Palace shared a stunning photograph to thank royal fans for their ‘kind wishes’. Later that month, the duchess admitted that she – like millions of other parents – had found parenting during lockdown ‘exhausting’.
On Valentine’s Day, Harry and Meghan announced that they were expecting their second child, having suffered a miscarriage in 2020. They chose to announce the news by sharing a black and white photograph of themselves under a tree, with Harry resting his hand on his wife’s head as she lay in his lap cradling her bump. It was also the month that the Queen welcomed another great-grandchild, August Philip Hawke Brooksbank – the first child of Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank.
Meg, I was there at your wedding to witness this love story begin, and my friend, I am honoured to capture it grow. Congratulations to The Duke and Duchess of Sussex on this joyous news!#remoteshoot #shotonipad #shotbymisan pic.twitter.com/3iSYjydVj9
— Misan Harriman (@misanharriman) February 14, 2021
Possibly the most jaw-dropping royal moment of the year was in early Spring when Harry and Meghan gave a two-hour interview with TV chat show legend Oprah Winfrey. In it, they made a number of claims including that Meghan had been suicidal while being a member of the Royal Family, that her in-laws were concerned how dark Archie’s skin would be, and that the Duchess of Cambridge had made her cry. The interview received a mix of reactions with millions supporting the couple, but many were also critical.
Watch: Queen makes it deliberately clear Palace may not agree with Oprah interview
This was also the month that possibly put Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall on tenth place on the ‘most search for royals’ list. She gave birth to her third child — a boy, Lucas – on the bathroom floor of her family home on Princess Anne’s estate.
After many months of ill-health, it was announced on April 9 that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh had died at the age of 99. At his funeral at Windsor later that month, the Queen cut a lonely figure as she sat by herself due to social distancing rules. Only 30 people were allowed to attend the ceremony as the UK was under strict lockdown rules. Prince Harry attended without Meghan but it was noticeable that during the funeral procession that he did not walk with his brother, Prince William.
Princess Diana made headlines again, more than two decades after her death. The BBC apologised to the family over the infamous Panorama interview when it became clear – after an independent investigation – that ‘securing the interview fell far short of what audiences have a right to expect.’ Both William and Harry made statements with Harry saying: ‘Our mother lost her life because of this, and nothing has changed. By protecting her legacy, we protect everyone, and uphold the dignity with which she lived her life.’ Harry also took part in a podcast in the US criticising his father’s parenting. He claimed that Prince Charles ‘suffered’ due to his upbringing by the Queen and Philip and that Harry moved to California to ‘break the cycle’ of pain for wife Meghan and their children.
Happier news arrived in June when Harry and Meghan announced the birth of their second child. Lilibet ‘Lili’ Diana Mountbatten-Windsor was born in California on 4 June weighing 7lb 11oz. She was the Queen’s 11th great-grandchild and became eighth in line to the throne. Lilibet was the Queen’s nickname when she was a child. However, even this news was tainted with controversy when a source at Buckingham Palace ‘never asked’ the Queen for permission to use her childhood nickname. A spokesman for the couple insisted they had.
Congratulations to Harry, Meghan and Archie on the arrival of baby Lilibet Diana 🎊
Wishing them all well at this special time. pic.twitter.com/ucJZIm2kqH
— The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (@ClarenceHouse) June 6, 2021
The Windsor brothers looked on friendlier terms at the unveiling of a statue to their late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales on what would have been her 60th birthday.
On August 10, Virginia Giuffre – nee Roberts – launched a legal battle against Prince Andrew, accusing him of sexually abusing her at Jeffrey’ Epstein’s mansion. Andrew has always denied her claim that he had sex with her but Giuffre, who was a teenager at the time, said it was "past the time for him to be held to account".
Another royal great grandchild for the Queen when Princess Beatrice and husband Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi had a daughter – Sienna Elizabeth – on 18 September. Later that month, the Duchess of Cambridge sparkled in gold at the premiere of the latest James Bond film No Time To Die.
The first Earthshot Prize – which aims to find solutions to protect the planet, were awarded in London with the the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attending. The Duke was involved in creating the prize. Guests were asked to “consider the environment when choosing their outfit” so the Duchess wore a 10-year-old evening gown and the couple arrived in an electric vehicle.
The environment was in the headlines again when the Queen delivered a video message to world leaders attending the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November. She had already warned them that she would not be attending after a spell in hospital in late October. But later this month, doctors gave her permission to leave Windsor Castle and spend the weekend at Sandringham House.
Other members of the Royal Family attended various Remembrance Day events, including Harry and Meghan who walked their first red carpet of the year at the annual Salute to Freedom gala in NYC.
The Cambridges shared a photo used on their annual Christmas card on their social media accounts, featuring the five of them on holiday in Jordan earlier this year.
Due to the COVID situation, the Queen decided to remain at Windsor rather than travel to Sandringham for Christmas. Worryingly, it emerged that on Christmas Day, a 19-year-old man was arrested in the grounds armed with a crossbow, but he did not come within 500m of the royal family.
Later that day, the Queen’s speech to the nation was one of her most personal, paying tribute to her beloved husband Prince Philip and to her new great grandchildren. "For me and my family, even with one familiar laugh missing this year, there will be joy in Christmas, as we have the chance to reminisce, and see anew the wonder of the festive season through the eyes of our young children, of whom we were delighted to welcome four more this year.’
Watch: Queen pays tribute to Prince Philip in Christmas Day message