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One Year On from Megxit, What’s Next for the Royal Family?

Photo: Getty

The royal diary in 2021—like all of our diaries—depends on one thing: Covid-19. If the vaccine rollout allows us to return to some semblance of normality, then some of the most significant royal events of recent times will become public events, too. This year is big for royal anniversaries: the Queen will turn 95, Prince Philip will become 100 and in July, Princess Diana would have been 60. All three are expected to generate varying degrees of public celebration, depending on the progress of the vaccine.

The vaccine will also dictate whether or not Prince Harry can attend his grandparents’ milestone birthdays in the UK and the Invictus Games in The Hague, Netherlands, in May (an event that he founded and is extremely close to his heart). Will his wife, Meghan, also go to Britain? Will Prince Andrew be interviewed by the FBI before Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial in July? Read on for our predictions of all the royal ups and downs of 2021.

Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: Getty

1. The Queen turns 95 on April 21

Covid-19 restrictions depending, a parade will take place to mark Her Majesty’s birthday. “A documentary is being made for the Queen’s 95th,” says Hugo Vickers, biographer of the Queen Mother, the Duchess of Windsor and Queen Mary. “For her 80th and 90th, she did walkabouts in Windsor — that would be ideal.”

2. Zara Tindall and Princess Eugenie will have their babies in early 2021

The Queen’s ninth and tenth great-grandchildren are due early in the year. The custom is for the Queen to see her great-grandchildren soon after they are born. But, with Covid-19 restrictions and the Queen in her Windsor Castle bubble, it looks likely that this tradition will be broken.

3. Will Prince Harry return to the UK?

Prince Harry is said to be longing to return to the UK for his grandparents’ big birthdays if Covid-19 travel restrictions allow.

4. Invictus Games, the Hague, Netherlands, from May 29 to June 5

One of Prince Harry’s few remaining set-in-stone dates is for his beloved Invictus Games, which he established for injured and sick servicemen and women in 2014. They have already been postponed from 2020 — at the time of writing, they are still planning to go ahead.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh. Photo: Getty

5. Prince Philip’s 100th birthday on June 10

Prince Philip is thought to be reluctant to have any fuss made for his 100th birthday, but he realises that people will want to see him. “He could come out into the quadrangle at Windsor like he did last year for [the celebration of military regiment] the Rifles,” explains Vickers. “He is in good shape, but he hates bother of any kind.”

6. What would have been the 60th birthday of Princess Diana on July 1

The birthday of the late princess has received little public attention since she died in 1997. Admirers still plaster the gates of Kensington Palace with flowers and messages on her birthday, but this year would have been her 60th. A statue of Diana, commissioned by her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, is due to be erected at Kensington Palace on the day. If travel restrictions allow, Harry is expected to be there.

Diana, Princess of Wales. Photo: Getty

7. Will Prince Andrew give evidence in court in July?

The one-time friend of Prince Andrew, Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial is due to begin in July in New York — she has been formally charged with six counts (which she denies) over her role in the sexual exploitation and abuse of minor girls by the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Will Prince Andrew, who withdrew from public life after his disastrous Newsnight interview in 2019, retreat further into the shadows for the duration of the trial? Or will he be interviewed by the FBI? Last year, attorney Geoffrey Berman claimed the Duke of York has provided “zero cooperation” in the investigation. Prince Andrew says he has offered to help on at least three occasions.

8. Will Meghan have her day in court?

This one is still up in the air. The Duchess of Sussex’s privacy case against The Mail on Sunday is due to take place some time this year. The Duchess is suing Associated Newspapers for invasion of privacy for publishing extracts of a letter she wrote to her father in August 2018, shortly after she married Prince Harry. She’s asked for summary judgment — meaning that the case would be decided without her testifying, but that’s yet to be resolved, with legal arguments continuing. It would be highly embarrassing for the royal family if the case went to trial.

Meghan, Harry and their son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. Photo: Getty

9. The royal family ‘slims down’

Until recently, senior royals and their advisers concentrated their attention — and their PR machine — on the Queen and Prince Philip, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, the Cambridges and the Sussexes. After Megxit and Prince Philip’s retirement from public duties in May 2017, that leaves the Queen, the Cornwalls and the Cambridges. The ‘cousins’ — as the Kents, the Gloucesters and Princess Alexandra, the Queen’s first cousin, are nicknamed — have been marginalised in recent years and, according to Vickers, that process looks likely to continue.

10. The Queen cuts back her public duties

As she turns 95, the Queen is expected to gently scale back her public duties. She has been subtly doing so over the past few years. Until relatively recently, she did all the investitures, but now Prince Charles, Princess Anne and Prince William help out.

There have been other subtle changes, too — she stopped riding at Trooping the Colour in 1986 when her beloved horse, Burmese, retired. “She’s still riding, though,” Vickers reveals. “Her head groom, Terry Pendry, is in her bubble at Windsor Castle.”

Harry Mount is the author of How England Made the English (Penguin, 2013)

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