Megxit to Covid: a year of troubles for European monarchies

Bad times for European monarchies
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry: 'Megxit' from the British royal family
Separated from the Royal Family wax doll collection
Harry and Meghan: estranged
Meghan Markle's miscarriage in the summer of 2020
Meghan Markle's article in the New York Times
'Finding Freedom': a book about Megxit and its causes
No support from the royal family
Another British scandal: the exit of Prince Andrew
Did he sleep with a trafficked girl?
Shocking news from the Norwegian court: Ari Behn's suicide
The sadness of Ari Behn's relatives
Martha Louise of Norway is in love with a shaman
Royalty infected with the coronavirus
William and Charles positive
The vulnerable queen and her husband
Prince Albert of Monaco infected
The sadness continues for Charlene of Monaco
Charlene shows her rebellious side
Royals who did not abide by pandemic rules
Dutch princesses escaping the lockdown
Birgitta of Sweden got stuck on Mallorca
The secret house of Prince Frederick and Mary Donaldson
European monarchs and their riches
Joachim of Denmark: the controversial prince
Laurent of Belgium: big spender
Albert of Belgium recognizes his extramarital daughter
Corruption in the Spanish monarchy
Juan Carlos accused by Corinna Larsen-Wittgenstein
Corinna and the King: more than friends
Juan Carlos: cut off by his son, then exiled
Queen Letizia called
A tragic loss for the Habsburgs
Bad times for European monarchies

To be a king, queen, prince, or princess nowadays is not as easy as it used to be. Scandals, controversies, and personal tragedies piled onto the palaces of Europe in the past year - from the British 'Megxit' to a Norwegian suicide, Spanish corruption, and various royal mishaps during the coronavirus pandemic.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry: 'Megxit' from the British royal family

The internal tensions in the British royal family caused 2020 to start with a bang: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry announced that they were leaving their official positions in the Royal House and were moving to the United States.

Separated from the Royal Family wax doll collection

Wax doll museums are often curiously in the front line when it comes to reacting to news. Madame Tussauds in London immediately separated the dolls of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry from the rest of the British royal family to reflect the profound change in its official composition.

Harry and Meghan: estranged

A revealing detail of the scandal was that the couple talked to their friend Elton John about the decision before they told Queen Elizabeth. Far away in California, they now find themselves estranged from the palace in real life as much as in wax form.

Meghan Markle's miscarriage in the summer of 2020

Separated from the royal family but in proximity to that of Meghan Markle, the couple had to endure a tragic loss in July 2020. As Meghan Markle revealed later in an article in the New York Times, she had been pregnant with her second child and suffered a miscarriage.

Meghan Markle's article in the New York Times

"Losing a child brings with it almost unbearable guilt," Markle said in the New York Times. "It is something that many people have experienced but few people talk about." With her article, she tried to break "the cycle of solitary mourning."

 

Read about their new life and Markle's TV-husband who misses her

'Finding Freedom': a book about Megxit and its causes

And that was not all for the couple last summer. As they mourned the loss of their unborn child, they had to deal with a new book about their lives (without their cooperation) in the month of August. It revealed details of their struggles in the royal palace.

No support from the royal family

'Finding Freedom' suggests that the couple felt confined in the royal circle and that they received little support from the traditional court when the tabloid press attacked them.

Read the 20 biggest scoops from 'Finding Freedom'

Another British scandal: the exit of Prince Andrew

It was not just Meghan and Harry who distanced themselves from the British royal family. Mere weeks before them, in late 2019, Prince Andrew had announced that he was stepping back from his official role in the palace due to his alleged involvement in the sex trafficking crimes of Jeffrey Epstein.

Did he sleep with a trafficked girl?

Prince Andrew had denied his involvement with one of the girls trafficked by Jeffrey Epstein, but over the course of 2020, indications mounted that his alibi (a party in the Pizza Express) did not hold up.

Read more about Prince Andrew's delicate situation

Shocking news from the Norwegian court: Ari Behn's suicide

Another event that shocked European royalty was a suicide in the Christmas break of 2019. Ari Behn, Norwegian Princess Martha Louise's ex-husband, passed away that day. Behn was a known writer and painter, and in his latter years he had published about his struggle with depression.

The sadness of Ari Behn's relatives

At several points in 2020, his family reflected on the shocking event. One of his adolescent daughters, Princess Leah, wrote on Instagram that she was struggling with his death. King Harald, his father-in-law, says the situation reminded him of the loss of his own mother when he was 17. He spoke earnestly about his and his family's experience in the book ‘Kongen forteller’ by Harald Stanghelle.

Read more about the aftermath of Ari Behn's death

Martha Louise of Norway is in love with a shaman

Apart from the tragic death of her ex, Martha Louise has been in the news for her remarkable relationship with Shaman Durek, a healer whose controversial claims include his assurance that sadness causes cancer.

Royalty infected with the coronavirus

In February and March of 2020, the scope and dangers of the new coronavirus became known in royal houses as well as among the general populations of countries around the world. Shortly after this photo was taken, Prince Charles of Wales found out he was infected with COVID-19.

William and Charles positive

Later in the year, it became known that Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and the second in line for the throne, had also tested positive in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. He had not told the public right away because "there were important things going on and I didn't want to worry anyone," he reportedly said according to the newspaper 'The Sun'.

The vulnerable queen and her husband

Prince William and Kate Middleton took over a number of official appearances from Queen Elizabeth, to spare the monarch (94) and her husband Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh (99), from risking their health in public spaces. The condition of Philip caused the British royal house and its watchers most worries in 2020.

Prince Albert of Monaco infected

On March 19, the Prince of Monaco announced that he too had the coronavirus. His wife Charlene and their twins Gabrielle and Jacques did not test positive at that time. Luckily, Prince Albert did not suffer much from the disease.

The sadness continues for Charlene of Monaco

Albert's wife Charlene, a sporty South-African beauty, is often referred to as 'the sad princess' because she rarely smiles in public. Media like Huisgenoot in South Africa speculate that the princess is not popular among the Monaco jetset and that she feels "suffocated" in the palace.

Charlene shows her rebellious side

At the end of 2020, Charlene made a gesture with her hairdo that implied more than any of her facial expressions. She shaved it in a punk style, showing that she no longer cared what the posh Monaco elite thought of her.

Royals who did not abide by pandemic rules

The younger princes and princesses of Europe sometimes had difficulties restraining themselves amidst the COVID-19 safety regulations. Prince Joachim, the nephew of King Philippe of Belgium, sneaked into a party in the Spanish city of Cordoba while gatherings of more than 15 people were absolutely forbidden at the time. Having raved it up with 26 other students from various nationalities, Joachim started to show signs of the coronavirus, newspaper El País reported. It caused an international scandal.

Dutch princesses escaping the lockdown

A similar scandal shook the royal family of The Netherlands, whose two eldest Princesses Amalia and Alexia spent a weekend in Greece while unnecessary travel within Europe was absolutely uncalled for. The COVID holiday caused a lot of chagrin among the Dutch public.

Birgitta of Sweden got stuck on Mallorca

On the Spanish island of Mallorca, Princess Birgitta of Sweden did follow the rules, but it meant that she got stuck on the island until the first wave of the virus was over. The 83-year old sister of King Carl Gustaf of Sweden usually spends half the year on the Balearic island. Now she was forced to stay a bit longer, Svensk Damtidning reported.

The secret house of Prince Frederick and Mary Donaldson

Meanwhile, monarchs in countries varying from England to Denmark, The Netherlands and Spain were criticized in 2020 for their decadent lifestyles. The Danish Prince Frederick and his wife Mary (of Australian roots) got into a pickle at the beginning of the year after it became known that they had a 'secret' house in Switzerland. The property was worth two million euros ($2.5 million).

European monarchs and their riches

The Danish people and government had already debated the amounts of money they invested in the monarchy, and they did not like to hear about hidden luxury property. The same happened for the Dutch King, Willem-Alexander, who bought a sailing yacht worth two million euros ($2.5 million) while his country was in the midst of the pandemic (and his daughters in Greece). Here we see him and his wife Máxima apologizing on public television.

Joachim of Denmark: the controversial prince

Prince Joachim of Denmark also caused multiple contoversies.  He likes to party and critics of the monarchy often question his expenses. Some have even said he should follow the example of Meghan Markle and Harry of England, to break away from the Danish royal family and earn his own living.

Laurent of Belgium: big spender

The Belgian monarchy has also been shaken up by controversies. One of its most notorious members is Prince Laurent. His unruly and irregular conduct includes an alleged diversion of public funds for personal use. On one occasion he went to trial for this matter and was acquitted, and in another case he was charged with a fine.

Albert of Belgium recognizes his extramarital daughter

Delphine Boël, the secret daughter of the former Belgian king Albert II, struggled for years to be recognized as his offspring. He refused to admit it and she filed a law suit. In October 2020, Albert's son Philippe finally made an official statement saying that Boël was his sister and that she may be called Princess Delphine.

Read about other contested royal heirs around the world

Corruption in the Spanish monarchy

Meanwhile, a shadow of corruption hangs over the Spanish monarchy. Over the course of the year, more and more information surfaced about the shady dealings of the former King, Juan Carlos. The biggest scandal was that he allegedly received "kickbacks over a 7 billion euro high-speed train project in Saudi Arabia awarded to a Spanish consortium in 2011," as the Financial Times reports.

Juan Carlos accused by Corinna Larsen-Wittgenstein

The story came to light after the German aristocrat Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein had accused the King Emeritus in 2019 of the collection of commissions. She also revealed that he had given her personally a sum of 65 million euros. (She'd been a close friend of his, indeed.)

Corinna and the King: more than friends

Juan Carlos and Corinna Larsen-Wittgenstein allegedly had an extramarital affair for years. They broke up after Larsen found out that the King was dating other women at the same time (while being married to the Spanish Queen Sofia as well, of course). She told about their affair in a controversial BBC interview in August 2020.

Juan Carlos: cut off by his son, then exiled

Philip VI, the country's current monarch, stopped his father's allowance in June 2020 and renounced his own inheritance. Then, as the investigations by Swiss and Spanish prosecutors into his alleged corruption intensified, the former king left Spain in August to spend the rest of 2020 in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Read about the downfall and exile of King Juan Carlos of Spain

Queen Letizia called "obsessive" in a book

Queen Letizia of Spain had just made peace with her mother-in-law Sofia (right) after various disagreements, and then a controversial biography came out by the Argentinian journalist Leonardo Faccio in early 2020. It was titled "The Impatient Queen." Words like "insecure" and "obsessive" also popped up in the book. Read more about it here.

See also Letizia's biography in photos: the journalist who became queen of Spain.

A tragic loss for the Habsburgs

Finally, the royal Habsburg family was saddened by the unexpected death of one of their young and beautiful princesses. She was about to celebrate her 32nd birthday with her husband and her two-year-old son. But then, in May 2020, Maria Galitzine of Austria passed away unexpectedly from a cardiac aneurysm. The princess lived in Houston, Texas, just like her mother and sisters.

Read more about Maria Galitzine

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