Hi, friends, I hope this finds you well. Or finds you…asymptomatic? Is that the best we can hope for right now? Cheers to the end of yet *another* pandemic year. We’ve made it and that’s something to celebrate.
Before we say a final goodbye to 2021, I wanted to quickly recap the royal year that was. There was much to reflect upon (Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview, Prince Philip’s death) and much to celebrate, too (squeal — the birth of Lilibet Diana). Royal fashion returned in full force and you know I’m here for that!
Any predictions for what the next year holds in the House of Windsor? I’d love to hear from you. Please hit “Join the discussion” at the bottom of the email and share in the comments.
Wishing you the very best — or perhaps just a bit of rest — as we begin again in the new year. xx
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It was a busy year for the royal family! Compiling this list was a reminder of how much has happened and how complicated the royal watching landscape has become. We’re a long way from the romantic respite of Will and Kate’s wedding a decade ago. In my eyes, that’s a good thing, a chance to think critically about people in positions of power and the role of a centuries-old institution.
Next year promises to be a big one, with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee marking a staggering seven decades on the throne. Will it bring a family reunion, too? Only time will tell!
The following focuses on the younger generation, as those are the members I follow most closely. For the Sussexes and the Cambridges, 2021 marked the year of:
Harsh Royal Truths
Meghan and Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was a revealing and disturbing look at what they had been through during their time as senior working royals, offering a clear explanation for why they took dramatic steps to leave the Firm. From questions about the color of Archie’s skin and why he wasn’t given a title to Meghan’s mental health struggles leading to suicidal thoughts, it was filled with shocking truths. I think a lot about how Meghan discussed the disconnect between perception and reality, how she was being judged by the perception of royal life but facing a much harsher reality. Something to always keep in mind.
The discussion around mistreatment in the press, too, made Meghan’s legal fight — and victory — over the Mail on Sunday this fall even more meaningful. The complicated relationship that the royal family has with the media was outlined clearly in the (extremely well done) two-part documentary, “The Princes and the Press” from the BBC.
A Major Royal Passing
Prince Philip, the Queen’s beloved husband of 73 years, died on April 9 at the age of 99. He was an immensely complicated man and father, described as “brusque and insensitive.” But Philip will be remembered most for the way in which he stood by his bride. “He was born and brought up in a world almost entirely run by men,” read a reflection by the BBC’s Jonny Dymond. “But literally overnight, and for 65 years to follow, it became his life to support his wife, the Queen.”
A Happy New Arrival
Topping the list of joyful royal news was the announcement, arrival, and first photograph of Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor. Meep! The Sussexes shared that they were expecting their second child on Valentine’s Day, 37 years to the day after news broke that Diana was pregnant with Harry. Baby Lili arrived on June 4. Named for the Queen (Lilibet was her childhood nickname) and Princess Diana, Harry and Meghan’s daughter is eighth in line to the throne. We got our first glimpse of Lili’s sweet smile just before Christmas, with the release of the Sussexes’ super sweet holiday card.
Lilibet is one of four new great grandchildren for the Queen this year, joined by Sienna (Princess Beatrice’s daughter), Lucas (Zara Phillips’ son) and August (Princess Eugenie’s son).
A Big Anniversary
It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade since Will and Kate’s storybook wedding at Westminster Abbey, enthralling a new generation of royal watchers (myself included!). One thing is quite certain: they’ve upped their social media game considerably in the last ten years. The Cambridges marked the moment by releasing a pair of pictures of the couple along with the dreamiest video of their family frolicking on the beach and at their country home.
A Princess Remembered
We’re in the midst of a Diana resurgence with a host of depictions introducing a new generation to the late princess. I was fortunate enough to be part of the six-episode CNN docu-series Diana; there was also Netflix special of the (now closed) Broadway show and, of course, the emotional horror movie Spencer.
But the biggest Diana moment of the year, I would argue, came on July 1, what would have been Princess Diana’s 60th birthday. William and Harry came together to unveil a new statue of her in the Sunken Garden on the grounds of Kensington Palace. Plans for the work began back in 2017, two decades after she was tragically killed in a car crash in Paris. The statue, by Ian Rank-Broadley, depicts Diana in an ensemble from the family’s 1993 Christmas card. As a work of art, it received mixed reviews. But her sons’ amicable reunion was widely celebrated. “Every day, we wish she were still with us,” their statement read. “And our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy.”
The Return of Royal Tours…
How incredible was it to see both the Cambridges and the Sussexes on the go again? After the pandemic grounded…all of us…in 2020, it was a delight to see the royals return to traveling. Will and Kate took a four-day tour of Scotland, while Harry and Meghan spent three days in New York. Both trips were filled with back-to-back, headline-making engagements and showed the couples’ impressive ranges.
…Along with the Return of Royal FASHION
I did not realize how much I missed royal fashion until it returned. How fun it was to see Kate back in full swing, and moments of Meghan before and after her maternity leave. My sense is that maybe the duchesses missed it, too. So here for the spirit in their style.
The royal tours had some of my favorite fashion, from Meghan’s Loro Piana cranberry ensemble to Kate’s tartan trench. And how about the red carpet! Meghan’s wowed in a Carolina Herrera by Wes Gordon gown in New York, looking every bit like she was blooming in her new royal chapter. Kate had a black tie trifecta this fall, repeating her emerald Jenny Packham for the Royal Variety Performance and her lilac Alexander McQueen for the Earthshot Prize. But it was her shimmering “Bond Girl” evening that stole the royal fashion year for me, and all the ways in which the Jenny Packham gown echoed what Diana wore decades earlier.
Two Bestselling Books
Both Kate and Meghan were behind best-selling books this spring. We love to see it! The Duchess of Cambridge turned her pandemic project with the National Portrait Gallery into a gorgeous book called “Hold Still: A Portrait of our Nation in 2020,” which came out in May. The following month, the Duchess of Sussex released her first children’s book, “The Bench,” based on a Father’s Day poem she wrote for Harry. I particularly love the gorgeous illustrations by Christian Robinson.
New Ways to See and be Seen
This year brought a number of novel, high-profile public appearances for the Sussexes and the Cambridges. There was Harry on The Late Late Show with James Corden and the r Expert podcast, Meghan on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Will’s walk on Apple Fitness+. I would add to this list Kate's impressive piano performance as part of her carol concert, too.
I found all of these to be delightful departures from the usual smile-and-shake-hands engagements. They were still carefully calculated, as all royal moments are. But these out-of-the-box moments offered candid and unexpected glimpses into a more human side. I love the ways in which this foursome still surprises us.
A Big Birthday and a Big Year Ahead
Her Majesty turned 95 this year and looked, especially during a particularly busy stretch this fall, to be unstoppable. But reminders of her age linger, especially after the loss of Prince Philip. In October, the Queen appeared for the first time with a walking aide. Later, news broke that she had spent a night in the hospital; she cancelled a series of events and took several weeks of rest on the advice of her doctors. She even missed Remembrance Sunday, one of the biggest events on the annual royal calendar, due to a strained back.
The Queen ended the year on a high note, however, looking sad but stoic in her annual Christmas Day address. She looked forward to a history-making milestone just around the corner. “And February, just six weeks from now, will see the start of my Platinum Jubilee year, which I hope will be an opportunity for people everywhere to enjoy a sense of togetherness, a chance to give thanks for the enormous changes of the last 70 years – social, scientific and cultural – and also to look ahead with confidence,” she said.
May we all look ahead to the new year with confidence.
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What was your favorite royal moment of the year? Any predictions for 2022? Please share! You can hit “Join the Discussion” and leave a comment on my Bulletin page.
I'll see you back in your inboxes next Tuesday, friends.
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