Even in a year like 2020, the British Royal Family always gets our attention. Despite pandemics and lockdowns, the House of Windsor still made headlines from behind palace walls. From surprise weddings and lawsuits, to refusing handshakes and not wearing masks, this is how the royals raised eyebrows in 2020.
The year started off in turmoil for the royal family, as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they were going to step aside from their duties and live outside of the palace walls. Their shock announcement in January turned heads around the world. In March 2020, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan left the royal family in order to make their own money and decide which members of the press they engaged with.
In the months since, they’ve bought a home in California, continued to raise awareness for causes they care about, and have inked multi-million dollar production deals with Netflix and Spotify. They’ve also pursued legal action against British tabloid media. By the end of 2020, there were at least five active lawsuits, ranging from alleged wire-tapping, libel, invasion of privacy and copyright infringement.
In March, as the coronavirus pandemic was in the grips of the globe, Prince Charles, next in line to the British throne, shared the news of his coronavirus diagnosis. The 71-year-old recovered at his Scottish home, with his wife Camilla.
In the weeks prior to his diagnosis, the Prince of Wales made it clear that he was taking COVID 19 seriously. He was photographed forgoing handshakes and greeting people with anjali mudra or Namaste hands - a traditional Hindu greeting where palms are pressed together combined with a slight bow of the head.
Charles may have taken the virus seriously, but his oldest son, Prince William was filmed in March making light of the COVID-19 pandemic, asking first responders if it was being “hyped up… by the media.”
“I bet everyone’s like ‘I’ve got coronavirus. I’m dying!’ But it’s like, no, you’ve got a cough,” he was filmed saying.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge changed their tune in the months following, as COVID-19 cases increased in the United Kingdom and around the world.
But Prince William wasn’t as forthcoming about his COVID-19 diagnosis as his father was. News of the second-in-line having coronavirus in April was revealed by several news outlets in November.
Couples around the world have postponed or scaled back wedding plans during the pandemic, but no one expected a private wedding for a princess. In July, Princess Beatrice, daughter of Prince Andrew and Fergie, had already pushed back her nuptials to Eduardo Mapelli Mozzi once, but rather than postpone again, they decided to go for a smaller, socially distanced affair.
In the official photos, the newlyweds stand apart from The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, but the controversy-embroiled father-of-the-bride is nowhere to be seen.
Prince Andrew stepped back from official Royal duties at the end of 2019 because of what he calls the “major disruption” caused by his involvement with convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew hasn’t been seen in an official capacity all year, not even in his eldest daughter’s wedding pictures.
As Monarch of the United Kingdom and symbolic head of the Commonwealth nations, people expect Her Majesty, The Queen to set an example for her subjects, but she drew a lot of criticism in October for appearing in public without a mask. For her first public engagement since March, Queen Elizabeth II and grandson Prince William visited the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. She was outdoors and physically distanced from others, but that didn’t stop critics from calling on her to be a model of caution during the coronavirus pandemic.
As “The Crown” captivated audiences on Netflix, the fourth season drew considerable attention from the British government which is in the name of the Queen in November after it aired. The government asked Netflix to add a disclaimer that the series is pure fiction. The streaming service fought back and said it would do no such thing.
“We have always presented The Crown as a drama — and we have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events,” Netflix said in a statement. “As a result we have no plans, and see no need, to add a disclaimer.”
In early December, the Cambridges sparked more COVID-19 controversy with a Royal Train trip through Scotland, Wales and England to thank health care workers, despite the United Kingdom being on a lockdown that forbade travel.