December 18, 2019 / 9:13 AM / in 2 months

Car crash, rifts, and scandal: A tough year for the British royals

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will deliver her Christmas Day address to Britons next week after a tumultuous year for her royal family.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Queen Elizabeth II visits the Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh, Britain July 4, 2019. Andrew Milligan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Below are some of the incidents which have made headlines in 2019:

PRINCE PHILIP

The year got off to a bad start when Elizabeth’s husband Prince Philip, 98, was involved in a car accident near the family’s Sandringham estate in eastern England in January.

The Duke of Edinburgh escaped uninjured despite his Land Rover overturning. He later wrote to apologise to the woman injured in the accident which he said was partly caused by him being blinded by sunshine.

Two days after the incident he was warned by police after he was pictured driving without wearing a seat belt. The following month he gave up his licence altogether. Critics described his response to the whole incident as arrogant.

PRINCE HARRY AND MEGHAN

The birth of the queen’s eighth great-grandchild Archie to Harry and his American wife Meghan, a former actress, in May should have been a high point for the royal family but it was overshadowed by an increasingly hostile row between the glamorous, popular couple and the media.

Harry, the sixth-in-line to the throne, and Meghan were criticised for the privacy around the birth and there has been a steady rise in negative stories about them this year. Articles have picked out their use of private jets while promoting environmental causes and the 2.4 million pound ($3.08 million) taxper-funded renovation of their new home.

It culminated in the couple, whose titles are the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, beginning legal action against a number of tabloid newspapers in October over phone-hacking and invasion of privacy.

Harry described the treatment of his wife as “bullying” likening it to the treatment his mother Diana suffered before her death in a Paris car accident in 1997 when her limousine crashed as it sped away from chasing paparazzi.

“I never thought that this would be easy, but I thought it would be fair, and that is the part that is really hard to reconcile,” a tearful Meghan said as she described the difficulty of being a new mother and dealing with the incessant scrutiny that being a royal entails.

PRINCE HARRY AND PRINCE WILLIAM

In March, Harry and Meghan split up the team of staff and aides they had shared with older brother William and his wife Kate. In October Harry confirmed that there had been a rift, without going into details.

“We are certainly on different paths at the moment, but I will always be there for him as I know he will always be there for me,” Harry said. “As brothers you have good days you have bad days.”

William was reported by the BBC to be worried about his younger brother and his wife who were thought to be in a “fragile place”. By the end of the year, Harry and Meghan took a six-week break from official duties.

QUEEN AND BREXIT

It has not been plain sailing for the queen herself, as she found herself embarrassingly embroiled in political wrangling over Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Her suspension of parliament in September, at the behest of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, was ruled unlawful by Britain’s Supreme Court, putting her in the middle of a political and constitutional crisis.

While she had no choice but to act as the premier requested, critics said it made the monarchy look weak and outdated. Republicans said it showed the institution was pointless.

PRINCE ANDREW

By far the greatest negative coverage for the royals was generated by the furore over Prince Andrew’s links to the disgraced U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein.

The prince, 59, the queen’s second son, has been dogged by questions over his friendship with Epstein since his jailing in 2008 for child sex offences.

In 2015, one of Epstein’s accusers, Virginia Giuffre, said she was forced to have sex with Andrew three times and last month in a bid to draw a line under the scandal, the prince did an interview with the BBC to address the accusations, which he says are totally untrue.

However, the interview was widely viewed as a disaster and days later he stepped down from royal duties saying his “ill-judged” association with Epstein had caused major disruption to the royal family’s work.

($1 = 0.7794 pounds)

Reporting by Michael Holden

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