Six moments that make 2021 UK royal family's new 'annus horribilis'

Family dramas mean it has not been a banner year for Queen Elizabeth II

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Britain's royal family were rarely out of the news during a tumultuous 2021, during which they suffered a seemingly endless stream of negative headlines, on top of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh.

Queen Elizabeth II famously described 1992 as her annus horribilis in her Christmas address, following the public divorces of her children — including Prince Charles and Princess Diana — and a major fire at Windsor Castle.

However, the past 12 months have been scarcely less difficult for the monarch who was forced to severely curtail her public duties due to the coronavirus pandemic and ill health.

1. Meghan and Harry's bombshell Oprah interview

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex created a media frenzy following their move to California in 2020 and their sit-down interview with America's biggest TV host, Oprah Winfrey, which displayed their determination to set the record straight.

The family and their staff were excoriated in the interview, which would ultimately be watched by more than 100 million people around the world.

The duke and duchess delivered a number of claims, with accusations of racism, bullying and a disregard for Meghan's mental health while she was pregnant.

Although the interview did little to boost the couple's public support, its reverberations forced Prince William to take the extraordinary step to deny in public that his family was “racist".

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their interview with Oprah Winfrey.

2. Prince Philip's death marks the end of an era

The death of Prince Philip in April was a major blow to the queen after 73 years of marriage.

The 99-year-old's commitment to public service made him a mostly popular member of the monarchy, despite his sometimes eccentric behaviour and tendency to make inappropriate remarks while in public.

Queen Elizabeth watches as pallbearers carry the coffin of Prince Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh, into St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Getty Images

Thousands of people lined the streets of London to bid farewell to the Duke of Edinburgh in what was the largest state funeral since Princess Diana's in 1997.

The queen now faces Christmas alone for the first time since their marriage in 1947.

3. Prince Andrew's legal troubles drag on

Prince Andrew has remained in the spotlight ever since his disastrous interview on BBC Newsnight in which he denied the allegations of sexual assault made by Virginia Giuffre, a victim of sex trafficking by Jeffrey Epstein.

Ms Giuffre is now suing Prince Andrew in a federal court in New York over the claims, which have forced him to step back from senior royal duties.

At one stage, Prince Andrew attempted to avoid being served papers from his accuser's legal team by refusing them access to his property. The plan did not work and heaped further ignominy on an already hugely damaging affair.

4. William and Harry's fury at BBC Princess Diana documentary

Prince William and Prince Harry's relationship with the media is strained at the best of times, doubtlessly emanating from what they deemed as the media's unfair treatment of their mother.

The pair came together to denounce a BBC documentary, The Princes and the Press, which sought to uncover the complex relationship between Fleet Street and the royal family.

The timing of the BBC documentary's broadcast was somewhat suspect, coming months after the corporation apologised for the underhand tactics used to secure an interview with Princess Diana for its 1995 Panorama special.

5. Queen Elizabeth falls ill

The queen was notably absent from Remembrance Day commemorations at the Cenotaph in central London, the first time she was unable to lay a wreath marking her respects to Britain's war dead.

Doctors signed her off with a bad back.

And with a deadly pandemic raging, the episode was a stark reminder that the nonagenarian monarch will not be around forever.

6. Omicron ruins Christmas

Queen Elizabeth decided to celebrate her first Christmas since the death of her husband at Windsor as a “precautionary” measure amid rising coronavirus cases.

Rather than travel to Sandringham as usual, the queen will remain at Windsor where she spent last Christmas.

The head of state normally hosts her large family at Sandringham in Norfolk over the holidays and they are watched by crowds as they attend church on December 25.

But as coronavirus cases increase rapidly across the country amid the rise of the Omicron variant, the queen will not be attending a public church service on December 25.

She also cancelled her pre-Christmas family lunch, which is an annual event.

Queen Elizabeth's 2021 — in pictures

Updated: December 24, 2021, 11:42 AM