Recent crises that have rocked the royal family

Laura Elston, PA Court Reporter
·7-min read

The death of the Duke of Edinburgh has left the royal family bereft, and has come after the Windsors faced an array of difficulties.

Here is a look at the recent royal low points:

– The Duke and Duchess of Sussex

The protracted aftermath of Harry and Meghan’s exit from the working monarchy saw the royal family drawn into what was branded in the press as “all-out war at the Palace” – and then plunged into crisis, with allegations of racism.

The Queen and Philip’s grandson Harry and American former actress Meghan quit royal duties in 2020 for a life of personal and financial freedom in the US.

Megxit cast a cloud over the Queen’s winter break at Sandringham when the couple released a bombshell statement without warning her, in January 2020.

Meghan, Harry and the Queen
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did not warn the Queen before their announcement (John Stillwell/PA)

They spoke of their hopes of a dual role, stepping down as senior royals, earning their own money but still carrying out royal duties.

The Queen called a summit at Sandringham with the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Harry to find a solution.

But ultimately Harry and Meghan’s plan was unworkable, and they ended up having to drop their HRH styles and walk away from the monarchy completely, to earn their own money while living in Los Angeles.

Then it emerged the couple, who are expecting their second child, were to give an “intimate” television interview about their lives to Oprah Winfrey on March 7.

In pre-released excerpts, Harry said he feared “history repeating itself” in a reference to his mother’s death, and Oprah asked Meghan if she was “silent or silenced”.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Sussexes’ Oprah interview being watched on a laptop outside King Edward VII’s Hospital where the Duke of Edinburgh was in hospital (Yui Mok/PA)

On February 19 2021 the culmination of the 12-month Megxit review was announced – and the Sussexes’ “decree absolute” divorce from the monarchy was finalised.

Buckingham Palace confirmed Harry and Meghan had no intention of returning as working royals, and the Queen stripped them of their royal patronages and Harry of his honorary military roles.

The Sussex camp delivered a parting shot, branded disrespectful to the Queen who has served as monarch for nearly 70 years, saying: “We can all live a life of service. Service is universal.”

In the midst of the mess, the Duke of Edinburgh was unwell in hospital having surgery on his heart.

The fallout from the troubles grew increasingly bitter when Meghan faced allegations she had bullied Palace staff,

Buckingham Palace said it was “very concerned” and began an investigation into claims in The Times that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and “humiliated” staff, leaving them in tears, which she denies.

Meanwhile, as the promos for the Oprah bombshell gathered pace, Meghan accused “The Firm” of “perpetuating falsehoods” about her and Harry in another clip.

When the interview was finally aired, the royal family found itself accused of racism and failing to support a suicidal Meghan.

Meghan said, when she was pregnant with Archie, an unnamed member of the royal family – not the Queen nor Philip – raised “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born”.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Duke and Duchess of Sussex
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and their son Archie (Toby Melville/PA)

She also suggested Archie was not made a prince because of his race – even though rules set by George V meant Archie was not entitled to be one.

The duchess said she had suicidal thoughts as she struggled with life as a royal and begged for help, but no one in the institution supported her.

Both praised the Queen but Harry said he felt let down by his father the Prince of Wales, had been financially cut off and was shocked to lose his taxpayer-funded security after he quit the monarchy to live abroad.

Meghan said Kate made her cry in the run up to her wedding in a disagreement over flower girl dresses, and accused the Palace of failing to correct reports it was the other way round.

The Queen, who is head of state in 15 other realms around the world, and the royal family were left dealing with the devastating fallout.

The monarch 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 a royal engagement, spoke out publicly, saying: “We’re very much not a racist family”, as the royals’ ability to carry out official duties linked to diversity, inclusion and mental health was called into question.

– Duke of York

Andrew’s links to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal have continued for years, but hit a crunch point in November 2019.

He was forced to step back from public duties after his disastrous Newsnight appearance.

Duke of York
The Duke of York stepped down after appearing on Newsnight (Jonathan Brady/PA)

The duke was accused of lacking empathy for Epstein’s victims and for not showing enough remorse over his friendship with the convicted sex offender.

Andrew is facing calls to speak to US prosecutors and the FBI, which intensified after his friend Ghislaine Maxwell was charged with recruiting girls for Epstein to sexually abuse.

Virginia Giuffre, who claims 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, and his lawyers say he has offered to help with investigations.

The airbrushing of Andrew from public royal life appeared complete when he was missing from official photos released to mark the wedding of his daughter Princess Beatrice in July 2020.

– Rifts

Harry and William have faced a turbulent time due to a rift that would once have seemed unimaginable.

William warned Harry not to marry Meghan in haste, but Harry took offence.

Ex-Suits star Meghan was said to have left the Duchess of Cambridge in tears at Princess Charlotte’s bridesmaid dress fitting, but Meghan later told Oprah Winfrey it was Kate who made her cry.

Kate was also reported to have told Meghan not to reprimand the Cambridges’ staff.

Royal Foundation Forum
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex and the Duchess and Duke of Cambridge during the first Royal Foundation Forum (Chris Jackson/PA)

The “Fab Four” came to an end when Harry and Meghan left the Royal Foundation, ready to set up their own charity, moved from their Kensington Palace home, and then set up their own separate office at Buckingham Palace.

Harry, in his ITV documentary during his Africa tour, described how he and William had “good days” and “bad days” in their relationship.

He said they were “on different paths” but said he still loved his brother dearly.

Broadcaster Tom Bradby, a friend of Harry and Meghan, said the fallout began at the time of the Sussexes’ wedding.

Bradby said that, amid Megxit: “Really damaging things were said and done.

“The atmosphere soured hard and early, but few meaningful attempts were made by anyone to heal the wounds.”

The biography Finding Freedom reopened old wounds in July 2020 when it told of Harry’s anger at what he perceived to be his brother’s “snobbish” attitude to his bride.

William and Harry
Harry and William in happier days (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Harry was said to have felt “unprotected” by the institutions around the monarchy, while Kate was accused of having a distant relationship with Meghan and of snubbing her at the Commonwealth Day service – the Sussexes’ final official public engagement.

In his Oprah interview, Harry stopped short of criticising William, but said their relationship was “space” and he hoped time would heal it.

– Peter and Autumn Phillips

In February 2020, there was sadness for the royal family when the Queen and Philip’s eldest grandson Peter Phillips confirmed he and his wife Autumn had split.

The Phillips
The Prince of Wales with Autumn and Peter Phillips (Andrew Milligan/PA)

But the end of their marriage was amicable, with the couple saying they would co-parent their daughters Savannah and Isla, and that it was the best decision for their “ongoing friendship”.

Mr Phillips is the first of the Queen and Philip’s grandchildren to divorce.