From the Death of Queen Elizabeth II to the Accession of Charles III, the Top 10 Royal Moments of 2022
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II, stand on the balcony during the Platinum Pageant on June 5, 2022 in London. Photo: Chris Jackson/WPA Pool/Getty Images
This has been a year of joy and pain for the Royal Family, and royal fans the world over. It marks a major shift: the end of a 70-year era, the move from the new Elizabethan era to the new Carolean era. The three Cambridge — now Wales — children have stepped into the frame. And the family has not run short of drama, either, with the voracious tabloid hole filled by two former senior working royal princes, Andrew and Harry (along with his wife, Meghan Markle). As 2022 draws to a close, the stakes, as the Harry & Meghan documentary expressed, could not be higher.
The Platinum Jubilee
For four glorious days in June, Britain was awash in celebration of its longest-ever serving monarch. The Queen, it was announced, was suffering with mobility issues, but still managed to make the appearances that counted. There were two balcony appearances, and a beacon-lighting ceremony at Windsor Castle. The balcony reflected Charles’ new “slimmed down ” monarchy, with just the immediate line of succession present. Harry and Meghan flew in from the U.S., but were seen only in a glimpse at the window during the flypast and at the Service of Thanksgiving, seated on opposite pews from William and Kate. Paddington the Bear had a bigger role, really, in his filmed bit with the Queen shown at the Party at the Palace. The Queen’s spirit was everywhere, though, as parties took to the streets. Highlights included the many appearances by George, Charlotte and Louis, who took centre stage with their parents and grandfather Charles. Little Louis became a fan favourite — and an instant meme — when he expressed typical preschooler reactions to being forced to sit still for long periods of time.
Death of Queen Elizabeth II
It was the biggest royal story of the year, but we felt it was better to lead with the celebratory note of the Jubilee. That everyone knew this was coming is a moot point: it still hurt, and it was still a shock. The Queen was such a constant in all of our lives, it felt inconceivable that she could not be with us. Even after the death of her husband, Philip, after 73 years of marriage, Elizabeth rallied and brought her indefatigable humour and regal presence to the job at age 96. She met with the incoming prime minister just two days before she died, in what must have been a heroic show of grit. Her subjects showed their immense gratitude and the phenomenon of the Queue became a quintessentially British symbol of loyalty and stoicism and gratitude for her long life of duty.
The Steadfast Daughter
Princess Anne was with her mother in Scotland in the days before her death, and then poignantly never left her side as the monarch’s coffin made its way to London. She marked a major royal first, as the first female to stand in the Vigil of the Princes, and to march in procession behind a funeral cortège (as she had done for Prince Philip and the Queen Mother). Anne has long been called the hardest-working royal, but it was through the long difficult period of her mother’s very, very public funeral that she rose to the occasion and was recognized for her own years of quiet support and duty. She has stepped up as a big part of Charles’ slimmed-down core group of senior working royals, and in typical fashion, just gets on with it, most notably on an unannounced trip to New York, where she was photographed taking the Staten Island ferry. No fuss, no muss.
The Accession of Charles III
After waiting 70 years in the wings as the heir to the throne, the sad occasion of his mother’s passing became Charles’ moment to step into the spotlight. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and we saw much real grief on Charles’ face during the funeral rituals and services. A single tear streamed down his cheek as “God Save the King” was sung for the first time. The nature of monarchy makes transition the definition of bittersweet. There were a few small stumbles in his first days at the new job — tussles with pens being at the top of that list, when he vented his frustration with a leaking pen during a signing ceremony in Northern Ireland — but after so many years of speculation about his reception, King Charles was welcomed by the British public with open arms and cheering crowds. Poor Charles had endured so many decades of talk about how he would never be king, he didn’t deserve to be king, people didn’t want him to be king, but in the end things unfolded just as they were always meant to. The heir to the throne succeeded his mother as monarch, and will be duly crowned next spring.
Queen Consort Camilla
On this, the 25th year anniversary of Diana’s death, her archrival Camilla finally has the full backing of the monarchy. It is a testament to how much she has overcome in that time, and to how hard and quietly she has worked at good works, which slowly won the public’s support. There was much speculation over the years as to whether Camilla would ever be queen. Indeed, upon their 2005 civil marriage, it was announced that Camilla would not assume that role. But time, and much hard work on Camilla’s behalf, changed the optics and swayed popular feeling. In February, the Queen announced it was her desire that Camilla be crowned Queen Consort, after many years of resisting to officially receive Camilla as Charles’ partner. The long wait — as mistress then as girlfriend to divorced Charles in the difficult aftermath of the death of Diana, when the public was beying for her head — was over. Time resolved all the problems in the couple’s path, and at 74 and 75, they are now sitting on the thrones together. Camilla has already marked out her territory — edgier and less traditional issues such as helping victims of domestic violence — and she has made her own nods towards modernity, replacing the role of Ladies-in-Waiting with Household Companions.
The New Prince and Princess of Wales
A shake up at the top means the entire line of succession moves up a place. But the move really only matters to William, now Prince of Wales. The Cambridge ducal website was updated swiftly to Prince and Princess of Wales, and William and Catherine have been hard at work leaning into their new roles. It has been an autumn of multiple tiara and white-tie dinners, plus a quick trip across the pond for William’s Earthshot Prize Award Ceremony in Boston. Following a big move to Adelaide Cottage in Windsor from Kensington Palace, and new schools for the kids in the Berkshire countryside, this new phase of their lives was up and running immediately. Title changes were also notable for those that didn’t happen: Prince Edward had been expected to inherit the Duke of Edinburgh title from his father. It reverted to the Crown, however, and the new King reportedly has it in mind to save for granddaughter Charlotte. Edward, who is a hardworking part of the core team along with wife Sophie, was, however, made a Counsellor of State, along with Anne. That means effectively that Andrew and Harry, who retain that honour, will effectively never be called upon to use it.
The Sussex Media Empire
It has been a busy year of content creation for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, culminating in the six-part Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan in which they tell their side of the story of their departure from life as senior working royals. Many serious allegations were made, but it wasn’t the bombshell PR disaster that their Oprah interview was for the Royal Family. Still to come is Harry’s book, Spare, due out on Jan. 10. Meghan also had a podcast this year — which broke Spotify listenership records at the beginning of its run. (The first volume of Harry & Meghan drew some 81.5 million viewer hours; results of the second series are yet to be released.) The Sussexes were pretty much everywhere this year. What is most interesting is what they do for their next act, and whether this is their final word on the drama of the past.
Racism Scandal at the Palace
About the last thing Prince William needed when he was in the air on the way to Boston was to find out the palace was awash in a racism row. Lady-in-Waiting Susan Hussey (who is also William’s godmother), and who had served Queen Elizabeth for 60 years (and was even briefly portrayed in Season 5 of The Crown) made racist comments to Ngozi Fulani, the founder of Sistah Space, a domestic violence resource charity. Hussey persisted in asking where Fulani, who is British, was “really from,” and Fulani later called the painful experience “an interrogation” and “abuse.” Buckingham Palace was swift to act, accepting Hussey’s immediate resignation and issuing a statement condemning racism. The scandal overshadowed William and Kate’s Boston trip, and was a lead-in to the Harry & Meghan series that debuted the next week. One of the central messages of the documentary is to highlight Meghan’s own experience of racism during her time in Britain, and in the Royal Family.
Problematic Royal Tours
Dealing with institutional racism (and unconscious bias, which is what more specifically Harry accused his family firm of not recognizing) will be the single largest challenge of King Charles’ reign. It is also the responsibility of Prince William to lend his generational insights and energies in this imperative cause. The death of the Queen exposed the cracks in the system: her enormous popularity smoothed over much republican sentiment through the years. But starting with William and Kate’s Caribbean Jubilee tour this past March, people in Britain and around the Commonwealth are now insisting on atonement. The Crown is responsible for much racial disparity as the legacy of imperialism (here in Canada, many of First Nation, Métis and Inuit treaties are directly with the Crown). It was King Charles II who literally started the slave trade. There is a growing groundswell of demands for accountability and reparations for the sins of kings and queens past.
This was a very bad, not good year for Prince Andrew. It was the year his mother took his job and all his medals away and banished him from all the royal pomp he so clearly loved. The moment he signed an agreement to pay a settlement (but not admit guilt) to Virginia Roberts (Giuffre), who accused him of having sex with her when she was underage and being sexually trafficked by disgraced American financier Jeffrey Epstein, the hammer dropped. Andrew now mostly hides out at his big country pile, Royal Lodge, near Windsor Castle, and is occasionally seen riding in the Great Park. The accession of King Charles is very bad news for Andrew; it has been widely reported from close royal sources that Charles and heir William have no intention of ever welcoming Andrew back into the fold of working royals. Nor will he ever likely make another balcony appearance.