The year in royal news was marked by sweet moments, from the birth of a baby to a princess’ engagement. But it also featured a dose of reality for some royal family members — acknowledging the pressures behind palace walls, and how those walls don’t always protect them from public scrutiny.
1. Birth of baby Archie
Top of the happy news list must be the birth of a new royal. Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, first child of Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, was born in May. The adorable Archie, seventh in line to the throne, even has a bit of his father’s red hair.
2. Swedish King strips grandchildren of royal status
While Harry and Meghan opted not to use any royal title for their son, the King of Sweden stripped five of his grandchildren of the status they already had. It means they will no longer receive taxpayer funds and won’t be expected to perform royal duties. The only two grandchildren of King Carl Gustaf excluded from the move are the children of Crown Princess Victoria — Princess Estelle and her younger brother, Prince Oscar.
3. Princess Beatrice gets engaged
A year after her sister, Princess Eugenie, got married, Britain’s Princess Beatrice announced her engagement to real estate specialist Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi. The wedding is expected to take place next year. Eugenie posted the news on Instagram with photos she took of the adoring couple.
4. Meghan opens up about royal life
Beatrice’s romantic engagement photos belie the sometimes-difficult side of royal life. Duchess Meghan gave an unusually unguarded TV interview while on her trip to Africa with Harry in which she acknowledged being a new mother in the spotlight has been tough. “Not many people have asked if I’m OK, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes,” she said, holding back tears.
5. Tensions between Harry and William
During the trip to Africa, Prince Harry revealed there have been tensions with his older brother, Prince William, news that surely upset his many fans. Asked by an interviewer about long-rumored rifts with his brother, Harry said the pair are on “different paths at the moment,” and there are good days and bad days, but he said he loves William and they’ll always be there for each other.
6. Japan’s emperor abdicates
Japanese Emperor Akihito abdicated in April, becoming the country’s first monarch to step down from the Chrysanthemum Throne in 200 years. The much-loved Akihito, who turns 86 on December 23, had heart surgery and overcame prostate cancer in recent years, and cited health reasons for stepping down.
7. Japan’s new emperor had a date with the sun goddess
Yes, that’s right — and he’s spent nearly $25 million for it. Akihito’s son, Emperor Naruhito, took part in the centuries-old ritual to celebrate his ascension to the throne. Many Japanese criticized the expensive and mysterious ceremony, saying it violated the constitutional separation of religion and state.
8. Harry and Meghan sue a British tabloid
Duchess Meghan sued the Mail on Sunday, alleging it illegally published a private letter to her father and edited her words to disguise “lies” the tabloid told about the duchess. The paper denies the claim. Harry compared the British tabloid treatment of his wife to the treatment of his late mother, Princess Diana.
9. Prince Andrew tangled up in the Epstein case
Britain’s Prince Andrew stepped back from royal duties after a disastrous BBC interview in November about his friendship with accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. One of Epstein’s accusers has alleged she was forced into sexual encounters with the prince while she was underage, allegations Andrew has repeatedly denied. But media criticism of Andrew’s comments and an increasing number of groups cutting ties with him had the palace going into damage control.
10. A new queen in Season 3 of ‘The Crown’
This year’s royal headlines wouldn’t be complete without mention of the huge hit that is “The Crown,” the Netflix drama based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Season 3, which premiered in November, sees Oscar winner Olivia Colman taking over the role of the monarch during the 1960s and ‘70s. Netflix typically keeps its viewership numbers a secret, but nearly 4 million watched this season’s trailer in the week after its premiere.