Watch: Queen joins Royal Family to thank volunteers at Windsor Castle
The Royal Family has been through a year of change unlike any other in recent memory.
The decision by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle appears to have helped speed up a long-held desire by Prince Charles for a slimmed down monarchy.
According to reports, Charles won’t have to wait until he is king for the wheels to get into motion, as the Queen is said to have decided that a smaller group of royals will represent the monarchy.
The Mirror reported the Queen came to the view the group of eight was a good idea when she hosted a carol concert to mark the end of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s royal train tour.
The Queen, at 94, has had to cut down on the number of in-person engagements she can carry out because of how vulnerable she would be to coronavirus.
It means that over the last nine months, others have stepped up more and carried out duties to ensure the monarchy is still seen.
She is reportedly keen to have them work together more as well, which could pave the way for more joint engagements, as was seen in early 2020 when William and Kate joined Charles and Camilla on a trip to Loughborough.
Prince William and Kate, who will one day be King and Queen Consort, recently spent three days touring the UK visiting key workers, volunteers and people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla have also been out and about frequently, with Charles in particular releasing several video messages throughout the various lockdowns.
Read more: How well do you know the UK Royal Family?
Princess Anne has been quietly continuing with her engagements, while her brother and the youngest son of the Queen, Prince Edward and his wife Sophie have been increasingly visible.
Future decisions about the roles of royals will have to be made in line with government guidance, which the palaces have been careful to follow over the last few months. But the move would leave some in the fold - and put some out.
Yahoo News UK runs through the eight royals and the roles they could play in the future
Despite being 94, the Queen has made it clear she has no plans to step aside or reduce her workload more than is necessary.
During the coronavirus pandemic, she continued to keep up with charities and her work as Head of State, meeting weekly with the prime minister via phone call instead of in person, and using video conferencing to hold engagements.
She is even planning for her 70th year on the throne, with a series of events scheduled for 2022 for the Platinum Jubilee.
Any future new look Royal Family will include the Queen, who continues to make good on her promise that her whole life, long or short, would be in service of the Commonwealth.
Prince Charles, 72, is the oldest son of the Queen, and the heir to the throne. He is the longest-serving heir in British history.
His patronages span far and wide, but he has been particularly interested over the years in the environment, including sustainability, organic farming and plastic use.
During the coronavirus pandemic he maintained his visibility through video calls, and by releasing video messages. He also made appearances on Classic FM.
Charles, who caught coronavirus in March, is usually based in Clarence House in London but has been spending most of his time in Highgrove, his Gloucestershire home, since the lockdown measures were eased over the summer.
Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall
Camilla, also 73, is the wife of Prince Charles and as such is in line to be Queen Consort when he accedes. It’s previously been reported she wishes to be known as Princess Consort.
Her patronages have been steadily accumulating as she quietly climbs the ladder in royal life. Her passion for animals is obvious in some and she opened the Duchess of Cornwall kennels at Battersea Dogs Home’s Old Windsor site with her pet Beth.
But she has been particularly vocal about tackling domestic abuse in the UK, with campaigns to end the stigma around talking about violence and abuse.
Camilla has historically been a divisive figure, because of her relationship with Charles before he was divorced from Diana.
However her hard work and dry sense of humour has won round many royal watchers.
As second in line to the throne, and one of the younger senior royals, a lot of responsibility has been placed on Prince William before and during the pandemic.
He launched the Earthshot Prize in 2020, a project which will award millions of pounds over the next decade to communities, companies, even countries, that come up with innovative ways to solve problems the Earth is facing.
It’s thought it will be his major royal project, akin to the Duke of Edinburgh awards set up by his grandfather, or the Prince of Wales Trust, by his father.
As a father-of-three, the Duke of Cambridge has been keen to be a hands-on dad, and so has to balance a more modern approach to family life with his royal duties.
Keeping his coronavirus diagnosis a secret during the height of the pandemic could threaten public trust in him, but together with his wife, he remains a popular member of the family.
Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge
Formally known as Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge is one of the most popular royals and helped the family surge back into headlines when she married William in 2011.
Her sartorial choices are carefully followed and copied and she champions British designers, in particular Alexander McQueen.
The duchess launched her own big project just before the pandemic truly hit the UK, as she undertook a huge survey on the under-fives.
Just as her husband looks to be focusing on the environment, she will be championing early years development and plans to announce ways the whole nation can support children in those key ages.
Together they also run the Royal Foundation, which represents their charitable work.
Princess Anne is the Queen’s only daughter and has carried out royal duties since she was 18.
She’s among the quieter of the royals, of the view that it is better to get on with the job.
But she has gathered a new generation of fans thanks to how she was portrayed in The Crown, in seasons three and four.
As Princess Royal, she will always be a key support to her mother and a big part of the Royal Family.
The youngest son of the Queen and Prince Philip, Prince Edward has been a working royal since 2002 but remains one of the lesser known senior royals.
He has two children and lives close to the Queen’s Windsor home, in Bagshot Park.
Edward’s main royal role is looking after the Duke of Edinburgh awards, which were set up by his father. Prince Philip retired in 2017.
But throughout the pandemic, he has been seen more and more frequently, often in practical engagements rather than visits.
Sophie, Countess of Wessex
Former businesswoman Sophie joined the ranks of working royals in 2002 alongside her husband, but has spent much of that time working behind the scenes.
However, with the stepping back of Prince Harry and Meghan, Sophie has been given more of a public facing role in the Royal Family.
Sophie spent the first few months of the pandemic carrying out lots of private work with various charities, including cooking food for frontline workers.
And she has continued to offer practical help on her engagements when she can.
So who’s out?
While no firm decisions appear to have been take by Buckingham Palace, the intention to only include eight members of the Royal Family as working royals would leave some others out.
There are a number of other lesser-known royals who still carry out duties on behalf of the Queen.
And of course, there’s the Queen’s other son Andrew, and her grandson Harry and his wife Meghan.
The Queen’s second son has not carried out a formal engagement in more than a year, after stepping back from his duties in November 2019, over a disastrous interview with BBC Newsnight about his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein.
There have been a mix of reports indicating he intends to return to working with his mother in the future.
However, the Duke of York does not seem to be included in the new top eight.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex
Harry and Meghan are busy making a new life for themselves in California after agreeing a plan to give up their senior royal duties in January 2020.
However, they had hoped to make it back to the UK throughout the year – plans which were thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic.
With a Netflix deal signed and a non-profit organisation on the way, the couple will be very busy in 2021. While they are sure to return to the UK, this picture of the monarchy appears to be accepting they won’t be senior royals again.
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester
There appears to be a lesser role in this line-up for royals like the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, who have worked to represent the Queen for many years.
The duke was unexpectedly thrown into his role when his older brother died in a plane crash.
It meant he inherited the dukedom, and gave up his job as an architect to join the Royal Family’s work.
Since 1970, he has represented the Queen, and his wife Birgitte van Deurs joined him in the work.
At 76 and 74 they are past retirement age, which might allow them to take a step back.
Another of the Queen’s cousins, Princess Alexandra has decades of royal experience behind her and is patron or president of more than 100 organisations.
She first represented the Queen in 1960 and has represented her abroad and in the UK throughout the years since then.
She kept up her work during the coronavirus pandemic by calling her various charities. At 83, she may also be ready to step back.
Edward, The Duke of Kent
Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, is a cousin to both the Queen and Prince Philip, and also has decades of royal experience behind him.
The 85-year-old occupies a rarer position of having worked to boost British trade around the world too, as former vice chairman of the Overseas Trade Board.
He is particularly passionate about ensuring future generations remember and respect the war dead, and is president of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, a position he has held for 50 years.
Watch: Who is The Queen?