Saturday, 31 December 2016

10 royal reasons to remember 2016

The Royal 2016 in a nutshell - Elizabeth reigned supreme
(photo BBC One still)

We had a big birthday, a baby boom and a Silver Jubilee - and that's just for starters. In a year that brought highs and lows and smiles and tears, some moments really stand out. As we say goodbye to the year that was, here are ten royal reasons to remember 2016.

1.  The Queen at 90

It might just have been one day, but the 90th birthday of Elizabeth II dominated the royal 2016. There were celebrations throughout the year as the Queen became the first British monarch ever to enjoy this landmark birthday. On the big day itself, April 21st 1926, the Queen was cheered through the streets of Windsor while for three days around her official birthday in June there were celebrations in London. A church service, Trooping the Colour and the Patron's Lunch meant the party never ended. Throughout the year, the Queen has been honoured with new portraits, commemorative events and special stamps. It's been a birthday like no other and the royal memory that defines 2016.

2.  The Silver Jubilee of King Harald 
and Queen Sonja

An official portrait for the Silver Jubilee of Harald and Sonja of Norway

Twenty five years a king. Harald of Norway took the throne of Norway on January 17th 1991 as his country joined him to mourn the death of his beloved father, Olav V. A quarter of a century on, his compatriots celebrated with him as he enjoyed days of celebrations for his Silver Jubilee. Tens of thousands took to the streets of Oslo to mark this anniversary - his consort, Sonja, was also celebrating her jubilee. With approval ratings sky high, Norway's Royal Family had plenty to enjoy on this special anniversary.

3.  A new generation of royals

Europe got a new wave of royals in 2016 with the arrival of babies for several ruling houses. Sweden led the way, adding two more princes. Oscar Carl Olof, son of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, was born on March 2nd and Alexander Erik Hubertus Bertil, first child of Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia, arrived on April 19th. There was a new prince for Luxembourg when Prince Felix and Princess Claire welcomed Liam Henri Hartmut on November 28th while Belgium's royals said hello to Anna Astrid, daughter of Prince Amadeo and his wife, Lili, born on May 17th.

4.  Invictus 2016

Everyone hearts Harry right now and it's no wonder. The prince has had a fanastic year and the highlight was the Invictus Games, held in Florida in May, where the royal embraced the cause he loves and just about everyone loved him right back as a result. Invictus was Harry's idea, he helped bring it to fruition in London in September 2014 and this year he made it into a regular, international sporting event. At the second Games, in Orlando, Harry spent time watched just about every event going and spent hours behind the scenes with competitors and their families. Later in the year, Harry announced the next two venues for Invictus - it will go to Toronto in 2017 and Sydney in 2018. It's a standout event and a standout achievement for a royal who made 2016 his own.

5. Madeleine's fairytale tea party

Another royal who wore her heart on her sleeve won fans around the world as she became a princess who gave others a fairytale day. Madeleine of Sweden invited seriously ill children to the Royal Palace in Stockholm as part of her work with her One Big Day foundation which makes dreams come true. What the children didn't know was that Madeleine was coming to the tea party in a princess dress and a real tiara. She also brought her own little princess, Leonore, along to join the celebrations. The children were understandably thrilled while Madeleine made sure they had a day to truly remember. This little bit of kindness is a standout moment of the royal 2016.

6. Royal mourning

In a year that has seen sad moments affect many, Europe's royals have been called on to mourn alongside their fellow countrypeople. In March, terrorist attacks in Brussels left thirty two people dead. King Philippe of the Belgians addressed his country on television soon afterwards and he and Queen Mathilde visited those injured and the families of those who died and attended memorial services. Royals across Europe expressed their sympathies to those affected as they did when several other attacks affected communities across the world including in Orlando, Nice and Berlin.

7. An infanta in court

Spain's royals had another difficult year and the hardest moment came early on when Infanta Cristina walked into court in Palma de Mallorca on a January morning to become the first member of her country's ruling house to face criminal charges. Cristina, along with her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, and fifteen other defendants were put on trial on January 11th. The infanta, sixth in line to the Spanish throne, is charged with tax fraud which she denies. The judgement is likely to be made at the start of 2017 - meaning another hard start to the year for Spain's royals.

8. Two big royal visits

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made two major overseas tours this year and made headlines around the world while they were at it. In May, the couple headed to India and Bhutan where they visited many cultural, environmental and social projects. They met the King and Queen of Bhutan and the Prime Minister of India during their visit which included over thirty engagements in a week. At the end of the tour, William took Kate to the Taj Mahal and they sat on the bench where his mother, Diana, had so famously posed alone over two decades earlier. A few months later, the Cambridge family headed to Canada where mum and dad took on the work but George and Charlotte grabbed all the attention. William and Kate's second visit to Canada came just over five years since their debut there but all eyes were on their son and daughter who made several appearances during the visit.

9. A prince takes a step back

The year began with the surprise news that Prince Henrik of Denmark was taking a back seat in royal life. Queen Margrethe used her traditional New Year's Eve message to announce that her husband was windig down his official appearances and although Henrik appeared at her side at the first New Year levee the following day, he was missing from later galas and took a more low key role. He still made some appearances and had a high profile in the arts world.

10.  Kind words from a king

There was no pomp, no circumstance, no glitter, no gold but a simple event in a sun soaked park as the summer came to an end, put royalty at the top of the world headlines for a very good reason. King Harald of Norway gave a speech at a garden party marking his Silver Jubilee in which he called for equality and understanding for all. His impassioned words for a better society went viral and sent his already stellar ratings even higher. The king said everyone was Norway and said his wish for the country he had ruled for a quarter of a century was that ''we will be able to take care of one another....that we will feel, despite our differences, that we are one people.''
As we leave 2016 and walk into the brand new year ahead, perhaps that is the message we should all take with us. Happy New Year.

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