Year of trials and tribulations for Britain's royals

London (AFP) –


It was a year of trials and tribulations for Britain's royals that Queen Elizabeth II called "quite bumpy" in her Christmas Day message.

Here are some of the scandals and misfortunes to have troubled Britain's 93-year-old monarch.

- The ailing prince -

The year began with the queen's husband Prince Philip overturning his Land Rover after crashing it into an oncoming car.

It ended with the 98-year-old undergoing hospital treatment for what Buckingham Palace described as a "pre-existing condition".

The January accident left a woman with a broken wrist and the prince "shocked and shaken", according to a witness.

The prince was forced to undergo a routine breath test -- which he passed.

He blamed the accident on glare from the winter sun and was soon seen driving around the private grounds of one of the royal mansions, but later voluntarily surrendered his driving licence.

Yet time has taken its toll on the queen's companion of 72 years.

He retired from public life in 2017 and had a hip replacement operation the following year.

"Once you get to that age things don't work as well," his son Charles told a reporter on Monday.

- The 'favourite son' -

The queen's children and grandchildren have frequently been caught up in mischief, but few of their problems have approached the one now facing Prince Andrew -- the man often referred to as the queen's "favourite son".

Andrew was dogged throughout the year by allegations that he had sex with one of the victims of US paedophile Jeffrey Epstein when she was a teenager.

Andrew's attempts to clear his name in a BBC interview in November could have hardly gone worse.

The prince looked stiff and unapologetic -- a performance akin to "watching a man in quicksand", according to PR consultant Mark Borkowski.

Andrew's lines of defence included a bizarre claim that he never sweated -- his accuser said he perspired profusely -- and that he only stayed at Epstein's home because it was the "honourable" thing to do.

"There is concern in Buckingham Palace," a royal source told The Sunday Times after the interview was aired.

The prince promised to "step back from public duties" a few days later.

- The bickering grandchildren -

Princess Diana's sons William and Harry found comfort in each other following their mother's death in a 1997 Paris car crash.

But the two princes found themselves dragged into a tabloid scandal involving rumours of a growing rift.

Prince Harry admitted in October that the two were "certainly on different paths".

"Inevitably stuff happens," he said in an ITV interview that was treated as a sensational revelation by some of the newspapers.

Both Harry and his American actress wife Meghan Markle spoke about their struggles living in the public eye.

Harry took legal action against two newspapers over the alleged illegal interception of voicemail messages around the same time.

Meghan filed a separate lawsuit against a paper that published excerpts of letters her estranged father had sent to her.

- The Brexit mess -

The bitter divisions over Britain's future that have accompanied its exit from the European Union have also given the queen some grief.

She became embroiled in the saga after she approved the suspension of parliament requested by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in August, amid accusations he was trying to stop lawmakers discussing Brexit.

The Supreme Court subsequently ruled that Johnson's request was unlawful as it stopped parliament from carrying out its duties.

The queen herself holds only symbolic power -- in practice she has to follow the advice of her ministers.

But the BBC's royal correspondent Jonny Dymond called it "a hideous moment for the palace".