One may assume the life of a member of a Royal Family is easy, right? After all, members receive the “royal treatment” all year long. But the truth is royal families are just like all our families. Their lives can include controversy, scandal and some drama. And this year was no different.
Whether it was relationship rumours, links to the Panama Papers scandal, tax fraud trials or a playboy prince, royal families around the world made headlines this year.
Royal romance: Rare statement from Prince Harry
Rumours of a budding romance between Prince Harry and ‘Suits’ actress Meghan Markle first started in the fall but their romance reportedly started last spring when the couple met in Toronto. Markle lives and films her television show in the city and Harry was in town promoting the Invictus Games.
For months, murmurs of a potential relationship between the two persisted, resulting in endless media coverage and tabloid fodder. So much so, it was Kensington Palace (on behalf of Prince Harry), fed up with the coverage, that decided to confirm the relationship in a statement on Twitter. But along with the confirmation came a rare statement that slammed the media’s coverage of Markle.
Kensington Palace has issued a statement this morning about the harassment currently being experienced by Meghan Markle and her family. pic.twitter.com/EuFZ4fmUIj
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 8, 2016
The statement said the coverage of Markle had crossed a line and some of it had racial undertones (her mother is African-American, her father is white). It went on to say Prince Harry was worried about his girlfriend’s safety and ended by asking the media to leave Markle alone.
A few weeks later, amid reports Harry’s brother Prince William was not supportive of the couple, Kensington Palace spoke out again, this time saying the Prince absolutely understood and supported his brother’s desire for privacy.
Visit to Canada: Sight-seeing, fabulous fashion and a few snubs
The royal tour to Canada this fall was highly anticipated, in part because it was the first official trip for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their two children. As such, the tour was closely documented.
Over the course of the eight-day visit, the couple spent time in Vancouver, Victoria, Bella Bella, Haida Gwaii, Kelowna, Whitehorse and Carcross, and their every move was watched by Canadians across the country.
As expected, there were some great moments on the trip (like the adorable pictures of Prince George and Princess Charlotte enjoying themselves at a children’s party in Victoria or Catherine and Will aboard a tall ship in Victoria Harbour). But there were also a few awkward ones.
Just minutes after the royal family hit Canadian soil, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tried to give Prince George a high five, only to be completely snubbed by the prince. Ouch.
Another odd moment happened at the end of the visit when Kensington Palace released a tweet that included a commemorative and much-talked about video of the trip. Take a look for yourself at the slow-motion effects:
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) October 1, 2016
Before the picture-perfect trip started, there was also some controversy about it here in Canada. The family’s home base for this trip was scheduled to be Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city. But there were some questions about how Mayor Lisa Helps would welcome the family, given the fact she had decided to not pledge allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II during her swearing-in ceremony in 2014. Luckily, the concerns were squashed when Lisa Helps said she was “thrilled to welcome the Duke and Duchess to Victoria.”
Extended family: Pippa gets engaged, Camilla supports women, Prince Andrew speaks out, and a Lord comes out
There were plenty of notable moments for the members of the extended Royal Family this year, too.
Kate Middleton’s sister, Pippa Middleton, announced her engagement tohedge fund manager James Matthews.
Another headline was made this year when Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, visited the United Arab Emirates in November. The pair were there as part of a Middle Eastern tour with the goal of promoting religious tolerance along with support for women.
But perhaps the one moment of the trip that captured that message best was when the Duchess emerged during the trip with her all-female security squad. The moment was documented on Instagram by Clarence House.
Meanwhile, like Prince Harry, Prince Andrew also spoke out to condemn the media this year. He denied claims that he has asked for royal titles to be given to his daughters’ future husbands and he also slammed reports he’s having a feud with his brother Prince Charles.
Finally, another important moment for the royal family happened this year when Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin, Lord Ivar Mountbatten became the first member of the extended royal family to come out as gay when he announced his relationship to partner James Coyle.
“Being a Mountbatten was never the problem, it was the generation into which I was born,” Lord Mountbatten told the Daily Mail at the time. “When I was growing up, it was known as ‘the love that dare not speak its name.’”
The King of Saudi Arabia was one of many world leaders named in the Panama Papers scandal earlier this year, the massive data leak that exposed alleged offshore financial dealings of notable people from around the world. The leaked data was published by a coalition of media outlets and the non-profit organization International Consortium of Investigative Journalism.
The papers show King Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud was associated with two companies in the British Virgin Islands that took out mortgages at two luxury homes in London. The ICJ says “While King Salman’s precise role is not specified, both mortgages are mentioned “in relation to” him and his assets.”
That wasn’t the only controversy that roiled Saudi Arabia’s royal family. In October, Saudi Arabia executed a prince who fatally shot another man in a melee. The government executed Prince Turki bin Saud al-Kabeer in Riyadh. The move was a rare death sentence carried out against a member of the kingdom’s extensive royal family.
Members of the Spanish royal family were also named in the Panama Papers scandal. The leaked documents reveal King Felipe’s aunt, Pilar de Borbón, was president of a company that was managed by Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the scandal. The papers show Borbon was associated with the company since 1974. In 2006, her son Bruno Alejandro Gómez-Acebo Borbón took over the company until its dissolution in June 2014.
And the controversy didn’t stop there. King Felipe VI’s sister Princess Cristina and her husband along with her 15 others are charged with an alleged scheme to defraud millions in public contracts for sports events and conferences.
Princess Cristina’s fraud trial started this year, making her the first member of Spain’s royalty who has faced charges since the monarchy was restored in 1975.
Finally, Queen Letizia was also at the heart of controversy this year. The Queen was asked to defend herself after text messages emerged that seemed to show her support for a business executive who is involved in an alleged corporate credit card abuse scandal.
It was a difficult year for the people of Thailand. Their beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej died at the age of 88 in October and hundreds of thousands of people gathered to mourn his death.
But while the death made headlines, it was the appointment of a new King that generated controversy. The King’s son and the country’s crown prince, Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, formally took the throne to succeed his father in December.
It’s hard to know how the Thai people feel about this appointment, given the harsh Thai laws that say anyone who is found guilty of insulting the monarchy will be sent to jail for three to 15 years, but given the new King’s scandalous history, it’s no surprise his appointment garnered some criticism from around the world.
The new King has been well-known as a playboy and party animal with questionable behaviour. In fact, he’s known for his long and sordid history with women (he’s divorced three wives who he has had seven children with).
Besides his long history with women, the prince is also known for his questionable fashion sense. He was seen in Germany recently wearing a crop-top. He also really loves dogs. He even gave his beloved poodle Foo Foo a military rank.
The prince was originally expected to take the throne the day his father died as per Thai tradition and his father’s wishes, but he had asked for time to mourn the death. He formally took the title of King on Dec. 1.
“I would like to accept in order to fulfil his majesty’s wishes and for the benefit of all Thais,” he said.
It’s too early to tell how he plans to fulfill his majesty’s wishes, but there’s no question, Thais will be waiting with bated breath.