London (CNN) — This week saw members of Britain’s royal family return to public engagements as the two-week royal mourning period following the Duke of Edinburgh’s death draws to a close.
Back in 2002, when the Queen, accompanied by Philip, appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony for her golden jubilee, it was widely seen as a turning point for her monarchy. Delight was written across her face as she looked out on a sea of adoring fans, cheering and waving flags and umbrellas.
That response — almost two decades ago — was what the organizers had hoped for. But it wasn’t guaranteed. Nobody quite knew if it would materialize after the years of bad press following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Cheers turned to screams of excitement as Princes Charles, William and Harry, then aged 53, 19 and 17, respectively, stepped forward behind the Queen as the future faces of the monarchy. It felt like the monarchy had not only bounced back but was here to stay.
Aides will be hoping to replicate that sentiment next year when Elizabeth marks another milestone — her platinum jubilee — by becoming the first-ever British sovereign to celebrate 70 years on the throne. Over a four-day bank holiday weekend in June 2022, an “extensive programme of public events will mix traditional pageantry with cutting edge technological displays,” according to a UK government statement.
It will also be another opportunity to display how the family has rebranded after revelations about the royals from Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Sussexes and allegations stemming from Prince Andrew’s relationship with convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
Despite being in her 90s, Elizabeth has kept a demanding schedule of engagements, making the most of video calls to continue her duties throughout the pandemic. Even before the virus upended everything in the UK last March, she had conducted 296 engagements between 2019 and 2020.
But because she can’t do it all by herself, she drafts in several generations of the family to complete the more than 3,000 engagements the royal family undertake both at home and abroad each year.
Those family figureheads helping fulfill public duties have been swapped around more than anyone ever imagined in recent years. Philip is now gone, but so too are Harry and Andrew, for very different reasons.
There is still the core team of working royals, comprising the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In time, their children — Prince George and his siblings — will join that cohort but they are obviously much too young to take on public duties now.
The question of who takes up the patronages and military titles formerly held by Harry, Meghan and Andrew is certainly something the family will be looking to address over the next year.
The Cambridges are doing more but they have a young family, so the choice will be over whether the family reduces its public events, or if they draft in minor royals until the next generation is ready.
Princess Anne — the Queen’s only daughter — already has a full diary of engagements, so the other option would be Anne’s brother, Prince Edward, and his wife, the Countess of Wessex. The Queen is close to them, which became obvious when they so publicly stepped forward to support her after Philip’s death. Prince William may also consider leaning on his cousins Beatrice and Eugenie, Andrew’s daughters, who have retained their princess titles.
Royal succession planning takes place at a glacial pace and is signaled by nods and winks. As the institution prepares to celebrate the monarch’s 70-year reign, celebrations next summer will be the perfect opportunity for the Queen to showcase the supporting cast to the future kings, Charles and William. All eyes will be on the balcony, and the first group that follows her out will be her amended vision of the working monarchy.
THE FIRM, EXPLAINED
Monarchy, institution and the firm — are you getting confused about all the lingo associated with the royals? We wouldn’t blame you. It’s a lot to get your head around.
The best way to break it all down is to start with at the top. The monarchy is much more than just a family — it is an intricate, multi-billion-dollar brand with thousands of employees. So, how has a 1,000-year-old institution adapted to make it useful today?
Many people equate the royal family with a family-led business. But that’s the first misunderstanding, because it doesn’t make money like a normal business.
At the center of the working family, you have the firm of senior working royals headed by the Queen — they’re some of the closest to her in the line of succession.
The family’s engagements and maintenance of royal properties are subsidized by the Sovereign Grant, a public fund that came to a total of over $100 million for the 2020-2021 financial year. But in return, the monarchy has been estimated to generate more than $2 billion a year for the UK economy.
NEWS OF THE WEEK
Prince Louis turns 3
Kate gives flying a go … sort of
The Duchess of Cambridge tested out her piloting skills in a flight simulator while visiting an air cadet center on Wednesday. William, who previously worked as a search and rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force and later as an air ambulance pilot, helpfully took possession of his wife’s purse as she climbed into the cockpit and donned headphones before trying out the system. The visit was the first public event for the pair since attending the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral at the weekend. Philip served as Air Commodore-in-Chief of the Air Training Corps for more than 60 years. He handed over the military patronage to Catherine in 2015. While visiting the 282 Squadron, the Cambridges met with young people to learn how the air cadets program supports young people in developing life skills and met students who were participating in leadership and field craft exercises. As the tour drew to a close, the couple were treated to a three-cheers salute to honor Philip.
William weighs in on football row
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will celebrate 10 years of marriage next week, after tying the knot in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011.
To celebrate the milestone, we thought we’d take a moment to look back at some of the couple’s best moments, with a few family snaps thrown in.
Prince Harry echoed his sibling in his own Earth Day message as president of African Parks, a non-profit conservation organization. The group re-released a video narrated by the duke in which he advocates for the preservation of national areas and protected areas on the continent. In a statement, Harry spoke of the importance of “strengthening and protecting of biodiversity” before reflecting on “conservation champions, including my late grandfather.” The duke added that he felt “proud and energized to continue doing my part in this legacy.”