The Queen will no doubt be glad to see the back of 2021 – a difficult year which saw the death of her beloved husband Philip, her son Prince Andrew embroiled in a sexual assault lawsuit, and her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle make damaging allegations about the royals.
And while this year should be one of her most memorable ever – as she celebrates her Platinum Jubilee in June to mark 70 years on the throne as the longest-serving British monarch ever – it looks certain to be tainted by imminent dramas set to unfold.
Prince Andrew has constantly been in the headlines after Ghislaine Maxwell – a long-term friend of his and the convicted sexual offender, the late Jeffery Epstein – was found guilty on charges of sex trafficking and grooming teenagers under the age of 17 to engage in sexual activity.
As Closer went to press, a judge was deciding whether there were grounds to go ahead with a civil court case brought about by one of Epstein’s victims, Virginia Giuffre, who alleges she was paid to sleep with Prince Andrew back in 2001 when she was 17 – something he strongly denies.
And reports claimed that, should the case go ahead, Andrew was considering settling outside of court, but that the Queen had refused to foot his legal bills, and there was “no doubt” that she would help him out financially. Reports then said Andrew was “trying to force the sale of his £17m ski chalet” in Switzerland to cover the costs, which could be up to £4m should Virginia accept.
This year will also see the release of a hotly-anticipated memoir written by Prince Harry – who stepped back from the royal family in January 2020 – which is tipped to contain more shock claims about life behind palace walls, following on from his and wife Meghan’s sensational tell-all interviews last year.
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And the Queen’s former footman, Paul Burrell, tells Closer that she’ll be devastated that what should be a monumental year for her will be overshadowed.
Paul – who worked for the Queen before his 11 years as Princess Diana’s butler and “rock” – says, “This should be a wonderful year for the Queen, and there’s no doubt she’ll be looking forward to the Jubilee enormously. But I’m sure she’s also very aware of what’s in store. The year will be bookended by two very difficult events for her.
“In January, we have all the drama surrounding Andrew and, towards the end of the year, we’ll have Harry’s memoir, no doubt with more intimate bombshells. It’s heartbreaking. I’m sure she’ll be very apprehensive about the year ahead, and other royals – especially William and Kate – will step up to support her more than ever.”
Harry’s memoir – the first part of a multi-book deal he and Meghan, 40, signed with Penguin Random House last year – is one of many lucrative collaborations the couple have made since resigning as working royals to start a new life in the US in January 2020.
Harry has said that the memoir – due this autumn, though some reports say sooner – will detail, “My story, the highs and lows, the mistakes, the lessons learned”. It follows his and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in March last year, which sent shockwaves through the “The Firm” after they openly accused a senior royal of racism, alleged Kate Middleton had “upset” Meghan, and claimed the family ignored mental health struggles that had left Meghan suicidal.
Harry, 37, also described his brother Prince William and father Prince Charles as being “trapped”, and said he wanted to “break the cycle of pain and suffering” of a royal upbringing. He added that life in the royal family was like a “mix between [film] The Truman Show and being in a zoo”.
Harry took further shots at the royals during his mental health podcast for Apple TV+, again alongside Oprah Winfrey, during which he revealed he was told to “just play the game” within the royal family, and accused them of “neglect” when it came to protecting Meghan.
The royals were said to be “livid” over the couple’s comments – with William in particular reportedly “furious” with his brother, and the pair are still said to be barely speaking.
Meanwhile, royal commentator and biographer Katie Nicholl – who wrote William And Harry: Behind Palace Walls – predicts more eyebrow-raising interviews from Meghan and Harry, and more stress and sadness for the Queen.
Katie tells Closer, “The book will no doubt be full of more intimate and shocking revelations – Harry wouldn’t have got a multi-million pound advance without promising some juicy details. And in the build up to that, I imagine Harry and Meghan will have a carefully thought out publicity drive, which will see them drip-feed teasers in the months building up to the release. There’ll be more shocking claims to come, perhaps their biggest yet! I’m sure the Queen has a lot of anxiety over that and the royals will be braced for more bombshells.”
Paul, 63, adds, “I think it is abundantly clear that now is not the time to be writing a tell-all book about the royal family, with all the Queen is going through. It will be the ultimate betrayal. Surely Harry will see what this has done to his family and find it within himself to cancel the book, or postpone it. Even though he has stooped low in the past, he adores his Granny and surely he’ll realise it’d be too much for her.
“Hopefully, this year Harry and Meghan will lay down their swords – at least for the time being. They must not cause any more drama for the Queen – she’s been through enough.”
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Meanwhile, in another twist, Virginia Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies last week claimed that, if Prince Andrew’s trial were to go ahead, Meghan could even be brought to the stand to testify against her uncle-in-law. He said, “One; she is in the US so we have jurisdiction over her. Two; she is somebody who obviously, at least for a period of time, was a close associate of Prince Andrew… Three, she is someone we can count on to tell the truth.”
But Paul tells Closer, “I don’t think Meghan would go to court and get involved in Andrew’s case, purely because of her ego and her brand. I don’t think she’d want anything to do with this at all. She wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. If she were to testify, that truly would be it for her and Harry. There would be no chance of a reconciliation and the rift would never be healed. Let’s hope Harry and Meghan have it within them this year to leave the drama aside for the sake of the Queen.”