2011 an 'annus mirabilis' for the UK's royal family

Updated: 2011-12-30 08:13

By Robin Millard (China Daily)

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LONDON - Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee in 2012 should put the icing on an "annus mirabilis" for the British royals during which the world watched Prince William's wedding to Kate Middleton.

The year ended on a low for the queen as her 90-year-old husband Prince Philip was rushed to a hospital for emergency heart surgery as the royal family gathered to celebrate Christmas at their Sandringham country estate.

But the queen's husband of 64 years left the hospital four days after the procedure to unblock a coronary artery, fit for the festivities in June.

Prince Philip's heart operation aside, 2011 was a stellar year for the royals.

William and Catherine, as she is now known, tied the knot at Westminster Abbey on April 29, in a glittering ceremony that breathed new life into Britain's monarchy, as two billion TV viewers were swept up in the royal magic.

Another feast of regal proportions is planned when the country marks the queen's 60 years on the throne, the month before it welcomes the world to London for the 2012 Olympics.

The extremely rare diamond jubilee will witness an extended four-day weekend in Britain from June 2 to 5, featuring street parties, a concert at Buckingham Palace, a gigantic pageant on the River Thames, and a carriage procession.

"What they're doing is tapping into the mood they were able to capture with the royal wedding," said Katie Nicholl, The Mail on Sunday newspaper's royal editor.

"It's been a fantastic year for the royal family. The wedding really lifted not just the royals but the whole country," she said.

"It has been a perfect year for the queen and everything has gone her way. It's quite miraculous. It has been one great occasion after another. Every time we've seen her she's looked so happy."

Besides the royal wedding, 2011 saw the 85-year-old sovereign undertake two successful tours.

She made a groundbreaking visit to the Republic of Ireland in May, healing old wounds, while her trip to Australia in October started out being called a farewell tour for its head of state, and ended up reviving royal fervor and melting republican sentiment.

Prince Philip turned 90 in June with a typical lack of fuss, and there was a second royal wedding when equestrian champion Zara Philips, her oldest granddaughter, married England rugby star Mike Tindall in July.

William's brother Prince Harry, meanwhile, did his Apache attack helicopter training.

It is all a far cry from 1992, when the monarchy hit a low ebb in what Queen Elizabeth called her "annus horribilis". Windsor Castle was wrecked in a fire, while three of her children's marriages fell apart.

Worse followed in 1997 when Diana, princess of Wales, was killed in a car crash and the royals' reaction prompted public fury amid accusations they were out-of-touch and insensitive.

Agence France-Presse