World·Royal Fascinator

The royal highs and lows of 2022 — and a look ahead to 2023

From marking Queen Elizabeth's unprecedented Platinum Jubilee in early June to mourning the 96-year-old's death three months later and moving into the reign of King Charles, 2022 was a year of significant transition for the Royal Family.

Platinum Jubilee followed by Elizabeth's death and accession of King Charles meant year of major transition

Two people sit in chairs in front of a large door.
Prince Charles, left, and Queen Elizabeth attend a parade in the gardens of the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on June 30. Charles became King upon his mother's death less than three months later, on Sept. 8. (Jane Barlow/AFP/Getty Images)

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Any year has its ups and downs.

For the Royal Family, 2022 was a year of profound shifts between the two, from marking Queen Elizabeth's unprecedented Platinum Jubilee and 70 years as monarch in early June to mourning the 96-year-old's death a mere three months later.

Along with all that came the inevitable uncertainty of the transition to a new reign, family turmoil and questions of relevance and the role of the monarchy under King Charles in 2023 and beyond.

"I think you could say [that 2022] was the best of times and it was the worst of times," Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris said in an interview.

Harris sees the public outpouring of warm wishes for Elizabeth at the time of the Jubilee as a "real high point for the monarchy," but also "a fragile moment of unity where the whole extended Royal Family came together, if only for a few days, to celebrate the Queen."

From left, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall; Prince Charles; Queen Elizabeth; Prince George; Prince William; Princess Charlotte; Prince Louis; and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant outside Buckingham Palace in London on June 5. (Jonathan Brady/The Associated Press)

They came together again in September, but with very different emotions, as they, along with members of the public, mourned the Queen's death, which came Sept. 8 at her Balmoral estate in Scotland.

"We see this outpouring of mourning for the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the profound loss that that represents, and the uncertainty going forward for the monarchy and the Commonwealth realms — would the new King Charles III and the new Prince of Wales be able to command the same public respect?" Harris said.

There is also, she noted, obvious conflict within the Royal Family at the moment, with the relationship between Prince Harry and Prince William having broken down "almost beyond repair."

The year 2022 had started under its own clouds, even with the anticipation of the Jubilee, particularly because of a combination of two circumstances. 

One was the saga surrounding Prince Andrew and the fallout from his friendship with the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. 

After an out-of-court settlement in February in the sexual abuse lawsuit brought against Andrew by lawyers for Virginia Giuffre, a longtime accuser of Epstein, that saga largely fell from the headlines. But Andrew occasionally raised eyebrows with actions suggesting he might be seeking a return to a higher profile, something that continues to remain highly unlikely. 

WATCH | Queen Elizabeth laid to rest after state funeral: 

Queen Elizabeth laid to rest after state funeral in London

4 months ago
Duration 4:30
Queen Elizabeth was laid to rest after a state funeral that was attended by hundreds of world leaders and dignitaries, honouring a monarch who dedicated her life to public service.

More long lasting, however, has been the focus that Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, now living in California, have placed on the life they stepped away from within the upper echelons of the Royal Family. That had all burst forth particularly the year before, through their interview with Oprah Winfrey, which raised issues of race and support for mental health, among several others. 

"The Oprah Winfrey interview was not something that had gone away," Judith Rowbotham, a social and cultural scholar and visiting research professor at the University of Plymouth in southwestern England, said in an interview.

The year 2022 is ending with Harry and Meghan drawing attention to their situation again, this time through their six-part docuseries that started streaming on Netflix earlier this month. And there is perhaps more to come with the release of Harry's memoir on Jan. 10.

"The outstanding challenge for the Royal Family remains the clear unhappiness of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex," Rowbotham said. 

"With those documentaries ... what came through more than anything else to me is that they feel deeply and profoundly unhappy and undervalued, and that that sense of being undervalued and unappreciated has been part of Harry's perspective on the world for a long time."

As much as Harry and Meghan have been looking back, Harris says their actions might affect the future of the Royal Family.

WATCH | Second half of Prince Harry and Meghan's docuseries looks at family turmoil: 

Final Harry & Meghan docuseries episodes focus on Royal Family turmoil

1 month ago
Duration 2:04
The final three installments of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Netflix docuseries explores family turmoil that followed the couple's break from the Royal Family, including the strain it put on Harry’s relationship with his brother, Prince William.

"The recent documentary series by Harry and Meghan may have an impact going forward on what kinds of plans are made for junior members of the Royal Family — what sort of public life will Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis pursue, for instance," Harris said.

"Will they be given a choice at a certain stage about whether they want to be public figures or to be able to pursue their own careers in order to avoid a big public departure?"

Of course, one of the main focuses for 2023 will be Charles's coronation, set for May 6 and the topic of some speculation right now.

Amid other questions, observers wonder to what extent it may be a more streamlined version of the pomp and ceremony of previous coronations, and how it will take into account the tenor of the times — particularly the economic strife in the U.K. at the moment.

Harris predicts keen interest in the coronation on a lot of levels — "both the ceremony but also ... what it might reveal about senior members of the Royal Family," because they will be in the public eye all day.

Queen Elizabeth sits in Westminster Abbey on her coronation day, June 2, 1953, in London. The coronation for King Charles will be held on May 6. (Intercontinentale/AFP/Getty Images)

Other issues looming for 2023 include the Commonwealth realms and decisions they might make regarding their relationship with the monarchy.

"Whether there continues to be the same number of Commonwealth realms is going to be an issue that unfolds in the new year," Harris said, noting there has been strong republican sentiment in Jamaica for a decade. 

"The Harry and Meghan documentary makes it seem as though that's coming directly from how Harry and Meghan were treated. But we know as early as 2012 that the then-prime minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson-Miller, was saying that the time has come ... for Jamaica to pursue a new form of government."

Such discussions are likely in other Caribbean realms as well. And might there be another referendum in Australia at some point?

Closer to Charles's home, there might also be uncertainty.

"There have been differences between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom regarding Brexit, so it'll be interesting to see if the unity of the United Kingdom becomes one of the major issues in Charles III's reign," Harris said.

Still, in his first few months as King, there have been signals of an effort to focus on continuity from the reign of his mother.

"It's plain that the new King, supported and helped by both his wife and his eldest son and daughter-in-law, has every intention of showing that the monarchy is here, it's still working and it's adapting to a post-Elizabethan age," Rowbotham said.

When will the King come to Canada?

Several people take part in a dance.
Prince Charles, second from right, joins in a Dene dance while visiting the Dettah Community during a three-day trip to Canada with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee, in Yellowknife on May 19. (Arthur Edwards/Getty Images)

Will King Charles come to Canada in 2023? And if he does, how long might the visit be, where would he go and what issues would he focus on?

Such queries are more than passing curiosities for those who might be interested in catching a glimpse of the country's new head of state.

How such a visit unfolds could also send a signal about the future of the monarchy in Canada, given that the federal government sets any itinerary for a royal visit.

"It's a strange period. It's a transition period, and basically Charles also has to prove himself, if he's allowed to," John Fraser, acting president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada, said in an interview. 

Harris agrees that royal tours are going to be significant going forward.

The last visit to Canada of Charles and his wife, Camilla, who at the time was Duchess of Cornwall, was a three-day whistle-stop trip in May that took them to St. John's, Ottawa and Yellowknife.

Prince Charles, centre, and Camilla, right, take part in a traditional prayer service at a Ukrainian church in Ottawa on May 18. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

"It was comparatively well received," Harris said, noting that the controversies that followed Prince William and Catherine around the Caribbean in March didn't seem to unfold in Canada.

"Charles was careful to emphasize he was there to listen. He acknowledged the pain of residential school survivors, and he focused on topical issues like meeting with Ukrainian Canadians to discuss the situation in the Ukraine, discussing sustainable financing [and] the impact of climate change in the Arctic," Harris said.

But it was a short tour, and Harris said there will be interest in whether — as part of any coronation tour of the Commonwealth — Charles and Camilla, now the Queen Consort, spend more time in Canada.

The future of the monarchy is also under a microscope, particularly in Quebec, where the legislature passed a law making it optional for members to swear their oath of office to the monarch.

"It's difficult to imagine, even with low support for the monarchy in Quebec, that that would have happened in Queen Elizabeth II's reign," Harris said.

Two people speak with one another as they hold books.
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, meet with residential school survivors and elders in St. John's on May 17. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

She noted that while there is debate over whether the law is constitutional, "the fact that that law was being passed at all by the provincial legislature ... shows that in the new reign, there's going to be more discussion and debate going forward regarding the future of the monarchy in Canada, and perhaps more specifically the visibility of the monarchy in Canada."

That could come in debates around whether the monarch needs to be mentioned in citizenship oaths, how many royal portraits or royal insignias are on display in public and when the new monarch might appear on Canadian currency and coins.

"Coinage, currency ... citizenship oaths ... those all have to be watched to see the indication of what the government's doing, what officials within government are doing," Fraser said. "It can't happen unless it gets approval at the top."

Marking the festive season

Several people stand singing in a large abbey.
From left, King Charles; Camilla, the Queen Consort; Prince William; Prince George; Princess Charlotte; Catherine, Princess of Wales; and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, take part in a carol service at Westminster Abbey in London on Dec. 15. (Yui Mok/Getty Images)

The first Christmas for the Royal Family with King Charles as monarch will carry on with some of the season's traditions once led by his late mother while also seeing some things change.

After two years of pandemic restrictions limited larger family gatherings, the Royals will be back at Sandringham. Buckingham Palace confirmed the other day that members of the family will attend a church service on the estate in Norfolk on Christmas morning.

Charles's decision to hold a Sandringham Christmas is, Rowbotham said, "partly a will to not let Christmas traditions go as a family, but also I think it's more ... to do with the long-term future of the Royal Family," and having the kind of Christmas that William and Catherine will be happy to have.

Charles is, however, expected to leave Sandringham shortly after Christmas and not remain at the estate, as his mother generally did into February. Instead, he's expected to go to Birkhall, a home he owns on the Balmoral estate in Scotland.

Other seasonal events were back on the royal calendar this year, too, including a luncheon for members of the extended family, this time at Windsor Castle rather than Buckingham Palace, where it had been hosted by Queen Elizabeth.

As the Jewish community prepared to celebrate Hanukkah, Charles joined Holocaust survivors for a reception at a community centre in north London that acts as a hub for the arts, culture and social action.

A person standing speaks with another person who is seated while others watch.
King Charles visits a Jewish community centre in London on Dec. 16 as the Jewish community prepares to celebrate Hanukkah. (Ian Volger/The Associated Press)

Several members of the family also attended a carol service hosted by Catherine, Princess of Wales, at Westminster Abbey.

"This Christmas will be our first without Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth," Catherine said in an introductory message recorded before the service.

"Her Majesty held Christmas close to her heart, as a time that brought people together and reminded us of the importance of faith, friendship and family, and to show empathy and compassion."

On Sunday, King Charles paid tribute to his late mother Queen Elizabeth in his first Christmas address as monarch, championing her belief in community and those who embrace it in trying times.

WATCH | The King's Christmas message:

Royally quotable

"Whilst Christmas will feel very different this year, we can still remember the memories and traditions we shared."

– Catherine, Princess of Wales, during an introductory message for the Christmas carol service she hosted and dedicated to the late Queen Elizabeth.

Royal reads

  1. A former lady-in-waiting to the late Queen Elizabeth has given a personal apology to a Black charity boss after asking her where she was "really from" at a Buckingham Palace reception. [BBC]

  2. Designs for bank notes featuring an image of King Charles have been revealed by the Bank of England, with plans for them to enter circulation by mid-2024. [The Guardian]

  3. Prince Harry criticized his brother, Prince William, for allegedly participating in media attacks against him and wife Meghan — while she opened up about her contentious lawsuit against British media — during the latest episodes of their highly publicized Netflix docuseries. The final three instalments revealed more specific grievances than the previous week's batch of episodes. [CBC]

  4. A newspaper column by TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson, in which he said he "hated" Meghan, has become the U.K.'s Independent Press Standards Organization's most-complained-about article. The controversy has also extended to Camilla, who has come under criticism after hosting a lunch reportedly attended by Clarkson and Piers Morgan, one of Meghan's most vocal critics. [ITV, The Independent]

  5. Catherine and Camilla have been given ceremonial military roles as part of plans for King Charles's first Trooping the Colour next year. The parade marks the monarch's official birthday and will be held on June 17. [BBC] 

  6. Thai Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol, 44, has degrees from Cornell and was the country's ambassador to Austria, yet little is known about the presumed royal heir, who is currently in hospital for treatment of a heart problem. [The Guardian]

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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