Duke's death in midst of unprecedented times for country
- Credit: PA
The Duke of Edinburgh's death has fallen in the midst of unprecedented times as the nation remains gripped by the coronavirus pandemic
The Duke of Edinburgh's death has fallen in the midst of unprecedented times as the nation remains gripped by the coronavirus pandemic.
After the turmoil of 2020, 2021 began with a third national lockdown in England as the Covid-19 deaths continued to rise across the UK and around the world.
Philip, 99, who was married to the Queen for more than 70 years, was just weeks from his milestone 100th birthday on June 10, and the Queen is approaching her platinum jubilee next year.
The royal family, like the rest of the country, spent months separated from one another, with the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge contracting coronavirus.
Now the royal family is grieving, having had to say goodbye to their much-loved patriarch Philip - at a time when the monarchy had already been plunged into crisis.
The Windsors had been experiencing one of their most challenging periods in the modern era with the bitter fallout from the Megxit crisis, the rift between two royal brothers, and the scandal surrounding the Duke of York.
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While Philip was unwell in hospital after surgery on his heart, came the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's damaging Oprah interview.
The monarchy's reputation was left in tatters after Harry and Meghan accused the royal family of racism and the institution of failing to help the suicidal duchess.
In January 2020, Harry and Meghan had released a bombshell statement, without warning the Queen, declaring they were stepping down as senior royals for a dual life, combining financial freedom in north America with royal duties.
The Queen called a summit at Sandringham with Charles, William and Harry to find a solution to what was dubbed Megxit.
But ultimately the plan was unworkable and Harry and Meghan had to drop their HRH styles and walk away from the monarchy completely, in favour of earning their own money in the US.
The Queen and Philip's grandson Harry and American former actress Meghan, who are expecting their second child, had experienced their fair share of controversies.
They were accused of hypocrisy when they used private jets despite speaking out on environmental issues, and criticised over £2.4 million of taxpayers' money used to renovate their Frogmore Cottage home.
Their official tour of Africa was overshadowed when the duchess launched legal action against a newspaper group and the duke delivered a scathing attack on the British press.
The duke, in a lengthy statement, accused the tabloids of a "ruthless campaign" against his wife.
In an emotional ITV documentary, Meghan admitted to feeling vulnerable and Harry described his mental health and the way he deals with the pressures of his life as a matter of "constant management".
The couple faced stories - which proved true - about a rift between Harry and William, and Harry fanned the flames by saying he loved William dearly but they were "on different paths at the moment" and had "good days" and "bad days" in their relationship.
A source claimed the institution around Harry and Meghan was full of people inexperienced at how to best help deploy the couple's value and that they had single-handedly modernised the monarchy.
A new royal biography, Finding Freedom, hit the headlines when it revisited the saga, describing Harry's anger at what he perceived to be his brother's "snobbish" attitude to his bride.
Megxit was finalised in a 12-month review on February 19 2021, when Buckingham Palace confirmed Harry and Meghan would never return as working royals, and that the Queen had stripped them of their royal patronages and Harry of his honorary military roles.
The Sussex camp retorted by saying: "We can all live a life of service. Service is universal," prompting accusations they were sticking two fingers up at the institution of the monarchy and being disrespectful to the Queen.
Then came the news they were speaking to chat show queen Oprah Winfrey in a primetime televised two-hour sit-down interview.
In the midst of this, Philip was unwell during his longest-ever hospital stay, and undergoing surgery for a pre-existing heart condition.
Just days before the controversial programme was due to be aired, royal aides told The Times that Meghan, who denied the claims, faced a bullying complaint at Kensington Palace and that she allegedly drove out two personal assistants and undermined the confidence of a third.
On March 7, Harry and Meghan's bombshell Oprah interview was finally broadcast in the US.
They accused an unnamed member of the royal family - not the Queen or Philip - of raising concerns about how dark their son Archie's skin tone might be before he was born, and claimed Archie was not made a prince because of his race - even though rules set out by George V meant he was not entitled to be one.
Meghan said she "just didn't want to be alive any more" and had begged to go somewhere for help, but was told by one of the most senior people in the institution that it would not look good.
Harry said he felt let down by Charles and that "there's a lot of hurt that's happened" in their relationship.
He also complained about being financially cut off and losing his police security.
Meghan accused the Duchess of Cambridge of making her cry in the run-up to her wedding, and the palace of failing to correct reports it had been the other way round.
In the aftermath, the Queen issued a statement saying "while some recollections may vary", the issues would be taken "very seriously", but dealt with privately as a family.
William, in a rare move on an official engagement, spoke out publicly, saying: "We're very much not a racist family."
The Queen and Philip had already faced the scandal that engulfed their second son Andrew, who was forced to step back from public duties in November 2019.
The duke faced mounting pressure following his controversial Newsnight interview about his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
On the Queen and the duke's 72nd wedding anniversary, Andrew released a statement saying he was withdrawing from royal duty.
Royal writer Penny Junor described the monarchy as "going through very difficult times".
Andrew is now facing calls to answer the FBI's questions and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell has been charged with recruiting girls for Epstein.
Virginia Giuffre, who says she was trafficked by Epstein as a teenager, said in an interview with BBC Panorama that she was left "horrified and ashamed" after an alleged sexual encounter with the duke in London in 2001.
Andrew categorically denies he had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Ms Giuffre.
Some commentators described 2019 as the Queen's second "annus horribilis" - the term she used to refer to 1992, when the Princess Royal divorced, the Duke and Duchess of York separated, the Prince and Princess of Wales were splitting up, and Windsor Castle went up in flames.
But the 2021 saga of Harry and Meghan was branded the War of the Waleses 2.0.
In recent years, the nation has also faced a period of great political upheaval over Brexit, with the issue bitterly dividing the country and Parliament.
Despite the royals' problems, there have also been times of celebration for the Windsors.
Princess Eugenie gave birth to her first child, a son August, in February and Zara Tindall welcomed her third, Lucas, who was born at home on the bathroom floor in March, giving the Queen and Philip a brood of 10 great-grandchildren.
Both boys were given Philip as a middle name in honour of the duke.
The Queen and Philip welcomed the steady arrival of their descendants over the years, including the Cambridges' children, future king Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
The Sussexes' first child, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, arrived in May 2019, and a delighted Harry and Meghan soon introduced their new addition to the Queen and the duke.
Archie was the first mixed-race child born to a senior member of the royal family in centuries.
Princess Beatrice's wedding was postponed during the pandemic but she married two months later in July 2020 in a secret lockdown ceremony.
Her grandparents, the Queen and the duke, and close family were present for the wedding at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor.
There has been renewed interest in the Windsors over the past decade, beginning with William's engagement to Kate Middleton in 2010, followed by their wedding in 2011, the diamond jubilee in 2012, and Harry and Meghan's wedding in 2018.
The Queen and Philip also saw their granddaughter Princess Eugenie wed in Windsor the same year as Harry and Meghan.
Philip concluded his decades of royal duty in 2017, with his decision to retire coming in a surprise announcement from Buckingham Palace.
He carried out his final official royal engagement in August of that year, stepping down from a lifetime of public service at the age of 96 - although he was seen at the occasional engagement in the years that followed.
The duke, who dedicated the majority of his life to supporting the Queen and appearing at official engagements, withdrew from public duties but still remained active and busy.