2020 was a year unlike any other for everyone, and the British royals were no exception—and as we enter 2021 and the UK is plunged into a new national lockdown, life is still very far from normal. The royal family has already shown us that they can stay relevant when the usual timetable is ripped up, embracing working digitally and throwing their weight behind supporting frontline efforts. But, as more and more families face hardship as a result of the pandemic with no clear end yet in sight, the Queen and her descendants must continue to work to prove their worth in these challenging times. Here, we take a look at what is in store for the family in 2021.
The Queen and Prince Philip
The Queen emerged as an unlikely star of the video call last year, declaring: “Thank goodness for technology so one can still do this.” With the Queen and Prince Philip still isolated at Windsor Castle and the UK in lockdown, expect digital engagements to continue to be a staple part of the court circular in 2021. Some events in the Queen’s calendar have already been canceled with more to potentially follow suit. The four royal garden parties which are traditionally held for around 30,000 guests in the spring and summer are off, with officials sharing it just wasn’t possible to plan how they would be feasible. Last year, Trooping the Colour, was scrapped in favor of a small parade with just the Queen present, and this year’s event could fall the same way. The annual Royal Ascot race meeting, held in June, may also not be possible in 2021.
Just a few days ago, Buckingham Palace confirmed that both the 94-year-old Queen and 99-year-old Prince Philip have received their COVID-19 vaccinations. Their ages put them at the front of the queue, with others of the same age in the UK having already received the jab. Indeed, Prince Philip will be celebrating a big milestone this year as he turns 100 on June 10. He is known for his no-fuss approach to celebrations and the palace has yet to say anything publicly about the milestone. The Queen and Philip will also become great-grandparents again in 2021 with Princess Eugenie due to have her first baby and Zara Tindall expecting her third child. And preparations have already begun for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee—70 years on the throne—which will take place in 2022.
Prince Charles and Camilla
With traditional engagements out of the window, the royal family has had to get inventive about how they engage with the public. They have risen to the challenge, and Camilla has arguably led the way by releasing her lockdown reading lists and beginning this year by announcing The Duchess of Cornwall’s Reading Room, which will explore books and literature using Instagram.
Prince Charles has personally penned pieces for the Telegraph on cancer care and helping young people. Often hailed as the hardest-working royal, figures showed that Charles carried out the most official engagements last year, with 253 under his belt. However, the tally is dwarfed by the 521 he carried out in 2019, according to figures compiled by enthusiast Tim O’Donovan and reported in The Times newspaper.
No doubt Charles, who Camilla has previously told reporters is “always working,” will be keen to resume his duties as soon as possible. He usually travels overseas frequently and, while any major trips look unlikely for some months at least, Prince Charles’s October visit to Kuwait to offer his condolences following the death of the country’s ruler shows that some overseas visits could resume quickly when things reopen. As far as COVID vaccinations go for the couple, they have indicated they will be waiting their turn like everyone else. Prince Charles told staff during a visit to a vaccination centre in Gloucestershire that he was “some way down the list,” according to multiple reports.
Prince William and Kate
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have started the year home schooling, with Prince George and Princess Charlotte joining all UK children being educated at home. The Cambridges are at their Norfolk home Anmer Hall which is where they spent Christmas and where they usually retreat to during school holidays. It offers the family the opportunity to enjoy a country lifestyle as well as having its own swimming pool and tennis court. Even with the trappings of royal life, however, it might not all be plain sailing, with William previously describing home schooling as “pretty testing.” “Trying to keep the children engaged in some kind of work, it's been an interesting few months,” the Prince told a BBC podcast in July following the first lockdown.
Last year, William and Kate shared plenty of photographs of family moments behind closed doors, and royal fans will be hoping this trend continues into 2021. They are also marking a personal milestone this year with their 10th wedding anniversary on April 29.
The couple will be beginning their working year with video calls after their December train tour of the UK to thank key workers highlighted the potential for controversy with in-person visits during the pandemic. Scotland’s First Minister refused to endorse it and the Welsh health minister commented on it by telling BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, “I’d rather no-one was having unnecessary visits.”
William has, however been making personal visits to volunteer with homeless charity The Passage. While supporting communities and frontline workers during the pandemic will be a big focus for the Cambridges this year, other ongoing projects such as William’s environmental prize and Kate’s early years work will also feature prominently. Following years of research, and after presenting her findings last year, the Duchess is expected to announce further plans for action in 2021.
Prince Harry and Meghan
While they are no longer working royals, Harry and Meghan still play a prominent role when it comes to how the royal family is perceived on the world stage. As they carve out their new life in the US it’s likely that their decisions over what projects to pursue and what they say and do publicly will continue to spark debate in 2021. With deals to produce content for Netflix and Spotify now secured, we can expect to hear more about these projects in the next few months, along with continued updates to their Archewell website, which was relaunched at the start of this year.
Meghan's long-standing legal battle with the Mail on Sunday over a letter to her father also continues this year, with a hearing to be held in January where her legal team will make her application for a summary judgement. If this is accepted, the case will end, but if not then a trial will take place and is currently postponed until fall.
Coronavirus regulations permitting, the Sussexes are hoping to return to the UK this year and could be at family events such as Prince Philip’s 100th. The planned unveiling of a statue of Princess Diana on July 1 in Kensington Palace gardens—on what would have been her 60th birthday—is a moment that will be very important to Harry. And if the Invictus Games can go ahead in The Hague at the start of June as planned then he will undoubtedly do everything to be there.
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